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No end in sight for Marines' Wounded Warrior Regiment as war winds down

Jan. 18, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
2012 Marine Corps Trials Day 6
Wounded warrior Capt. Jonathan Disbro waits to begin the 100 meter race during the 2012 Marine Corps Trials, hosted by the Wounded Warrior Regiment, at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif. The Corps has no immediate plans to restructure its wounded warrior battalions. (Sgt. Mark Fayloga/Marine Corps)
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The war in Afghanistan may be ending, but the Marine Corps’ Wounded Warrior Regiment isn’t going anywhere.

On the heels of news that the Army plans to restructure its own wounded warrior program, closing five of its 29 Warrior Transition Units, officials with the Wounded Warrior Regiment said the Marine Corps intends to support its current structure indefinitely.

“While our reduced presence in Afghanistan will result in fewer combat casualties, ... the [regiment’s] current structure and capabilities are flexible and able to adjust to fluctuations of our population of wounded, ill and injured Marines,” said Capt. Ryan Powell, a spokesman.

This decision, Powell said, is due in part to the regiment’s mission. It offers recovery support to troops regardless of whether their ailments are combat-related, though about 50 percent of the approximately 1,000 Marines currently within wounded warrior units came to the regiment as a result of being wounded, ill or injured in a combat zone, he said.

Additionally, the Marine Corps’ program is smaller overall and more centralized than the Army’s, Powell noted. The Wounded Warrior Regiment includes an East Coast and West Coast battalion, located at Camp Lejeune, N. C., and Camp Pendleton, Calif., respectively, as well as a headquarters element in Quantico, Va. The regiment also has detachments at major Veterans Affairs polytrauma centers and 30 regional support coordinators around the country who augment the regiment’s work.

Equally significant is command support for the mission. As the service’s commandant, Gen. Jim Amos has prioritized funding for the wounded warrior program despite significant budget cuts that have hit the service in most other areas.

That support stretches back years. Amos oversaw creation of the first wounded warrior barracks in 2005, and during his confirmation hearings in 2010, Amos called the regiment “probably one of the greatest success stories coming out of this war.”

“My sense,” he told lawmakers, “is that it will be around for a long time.”■

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