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USTRANSCOM Welcome Home Soldier Program

SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. (USTCNS) --- Imagine yourself as a recently wounded soldier returning from a war zone. When injured, you were rushed to a medical facility close to the action, treated and quickly moved to an Air Force cargo plane bound for the United States.

After a few stops and layovers, you find yourself here, alone and still far from your final destination. You're greeted by an Army member and escorted to the base hospital where you will stay for at least the night, in a room more resembling a college dorm than a military medical facility. You have just been introduced to the Welcome Home Soldier Program (WHSP).

"The idea for this program originated at Central Command's Deployment and Distribution Operations Center," said Lt. Col. Janice Ott. "I was the requirements branch chief and the deputy was a Marine from TRANSCOM J5. He told me about the Marines' program (to greet wounded Marines) and I made a note to look into it when I returned to CONUS (Continental United States)."

When Ott was reassinged to the United States Transportation Command (USTRANSCOM) she met Lt. Col. Jim Kazmierczak, who had recently returned from Iraq and was enthusiastic about the idea.

"We contacted the Army element leadership," Ott said, "and then held a couple of meetings with them and the Army patient liaison, Sgt. 1st Class Leonard Andrescavage, to get organized.

"General (Maj. Gen. William) Johnson (USTRANSCOM chief of Staff) introduced it during an Army Call and the 1st Sergeant, Sgt. 1st Class (Scott) Brewer, published the volunteer support roster." Johnson often spends time with wounded service members as they transit the Scott AFB medical facility.

Ott says she owes a great deal of WHSP's success to the Marines at USTRANSCOM who have a similar program. Col. Richard Britton, who recently departed USTRANSCOM for a new assignment, was instrumental in seeing that no wounded Marine passed through here without being met and assisted by a fellow Marine.

"The Marines here at Scott, all 30 of us, just thought it was our duty to check up on wounded Marines coming through," Britton said before departing. "We make sure they have a place to stay and they, and their family members, have money to eat with. We take this as part of our job, nothing special."

Every plane carrying wounded personnel that comes here is met by members of the 375th Aerospace Evacuation Squadron and one of 61 volunteer soldiers. "The Air Force hospital crew does a great job of taking care of the patients from the time they land until the time they take off again," Ott said. Additionally, the Army Wives Coffee Group, the USO and Scott spouse clubs help with gift donations and medical center room adoptions.

In the case of room adoptions, various groups on base agree to take care of a room used by transiting wounded personnel and provide decorations, paint and linens. USTRANSCOM is a sponsor of one of these rooms.

"When soldiers remain overnight at the care facility, we go back with them, fill any requests they have for sodas, cigarettes, burgers, etc.," Ott said, "and check on them during the time they're here to make sure they're comfortable and have what they need.

"The idea is to make sure we're here for these soldiers who have given so much," Ott continued. "Most of these troops are really young, and now, here they are, being pushed through the system just days after a major trauma and, in many cases, alone."

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