Pete Geren reached into the inside pocket of his sport coat and pulled out four notecards.
The blue, palm-sized cards were filled with comments soldiers had told Geren, the Secretary of the Army: Praise of resources for wounded soldiers, complaints about the slow-moving bureaucracy that runs the process to determine medical fitness for duty.
Such feedback doesn’t always make it back to the Pentagon, he admits. Listening to real-world concerns of soldiers is one reason why Geren tours Army installations worldwide, including a stop at Fort Lewis on Tuesday.
"There are a lot of filters between individual soldiers and the office of the Secretary of the Army – or anybody at the Pentagon," he said. "Every trip is a chance to hear first-hand from soldiers: How are we supporting them? Are they getting what they need?"
The morning of Geren’s visit to Fort Lewis centered on the performance of the Warrior Transition Battalion, which was created about 18 months ago as part of an Army-wide approach to better recovery care in the wake of the Walter Reed Army Medical Center controversy. The evolution of the warrior transition units was "like changing tires on a moving vehicle," Geren said, but Fort Lewis has helped provide an example for the rest of the service.
"Fort Lewis has been one of the innovators and incubators for good ideas," he said. "… We look at Fort Lewis and Madigan and the leadership here as one of our best innovators in the Army."