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Wounded warriors a year away from new quarters

Post by Matt Misterek / The News Tribune on June 1, 2010 at 1:31 pm |
June 1, 2010 1:31 pm

By next spring, hundreds of injured, wounded and chronically ill soldiers at Joint Base-Lewis McChord are expected to have a new place to live, recuperate and plan their futures. The Army holds a groundbreaking ceremony today for its $52 million Warrior Transition Battalion barracks complex.

Two new apartment-style buildings will hold units for a total of up to 408 soldiers. Each member of the battalion will have a private bedroom and share a bathroom and kitchenette with one other soldier, as they do now. Getting around will be easier, thanks to the elevators, and the atmosphere will be more comfortable, thanks to the air conditioning. Residents also will have access to a large courtyard with outdoor sports courts and covered picnic areas.

Officials say 10 percent of the living units will meet Americans with
Disabilities Act requirements, and all will be within walking distance of Madigan Army Medical Center.

It will mark an upgrade from the refurbished, 1930s-era barracks where these soldiers have lived since 2007, when the Army started standing up 30 Warrior Transition Battalions around the country. The former open-bay barracks have gotten plenty of use over the decades, including previous service as the I Corps headquarters.

The Lewis-McChord Warrior Transition Battalion currently has 444 members; about 185 soldiers reside in the old barracks, while the rest live off base, in officers quarters or elsewhere on base. Battalion spokeswoman Suzanne Ovel says the new barracks will be filled closer to capacity because they will have accommodations for officers and non-commissioned officers.

The Army for years has been moving away from the group barracks reminiscent of old war movies and toward progressively greater privacy. A master plan at Lewis-McChord calls for every barracks to be replaced or renovated into single-bedroom living quarters, which became the standard of new construction in the 1990s. Other barracks are receiving ongoing repairs and upgrades.

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