How we care for our wounded troops…and what it means

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As combat operations in Iraq wind down, it’s important to remember that many of the costs of that war, and the one now raging in Afghanistan, remain to be paid. Toward that end, former Pentagon official Noel Koch offers a sobering stare inside the Army’s Warrior Transition Units in the latest issue of Proceedings magazine, a feisty journal published by the independent U.S. Naval Institute. The Army created WTUs to grapple with the challenges of caring for wounded troops. Some 9,000 soldiers are now based at about 30 such units, mostly located at Army posts in the U.S.

This story has been told before by outsiders – in Time in 2008, and in the New York Times (registration may be required) last April. But Koch’s piece is important because it comes from an insider – and not a grumpy soldier angry at being housed with malingerers, but a one-time top official of the Obama Pentagon (the Pentagon’s new personnel chief forced Koch out of his job as deputy under secretary of defense for wounded warrior care in April without explanation).

Koch makes the unsettling argument that the wounded troops’ poor care should convince the nation of the need to resurrect the draft. “The connection between the Warrior Transition Units and having insufficient manpower available to fight the war on terrorism can no longer be ignored,” he concludes. “…the all-volunteer force does not provide adequate manpower to confront the current demands of our responsibilities as a global power…” Whether you agree with his disquieting takeaway or not, Koch’s piece is worth checking out for the profound question it asks about how we wage our nation’s wars.