The road to “Return to Duty”

WTU Force Structure Army Staff Sgt. Rachel Salemink, who returned to duty in October 2016 after recovering in the Fort Bliss WTB, competes in a racing wheelchair event during the 2017 Department of Defense Warrior Games at Lane Technical College Preparatory High School in Chicago July 2, 2017. The DoD Warrior Games is an annual event allowing wounded, ill and injured service members and veterans to compete in Paralympic-style sports. (DoD photo by EJ Hersom)

By Whitney Delbridge Nichels, Warrior Care and Transition

CHICAGO - For Soldiers competing in the 2017 Department of Defense Warrior Games, several months of their lives are dedicated to training for the chance to win gold. But once the medals are awarded and the crowds disperse, many of those service members return to their post-military careers or to one of two tracks of the Comprehensive Transition Program – Transition to Veteran Status or Return to Duty.

While RTD is not an option for every Soldier, ideally, those who complete rehabilitation in a Warrior Transition Battalion will be able to continue their military career in their desired Military Occupational Specialty.

That was the case for Staff Sgt. Rachel Salemink, an Army Reservist who was injured in 2015 while mobilized at Fort Bliss, Texas.

She recovered at the post’s Warrior Transition Battalion and was able to return to duty in October 2016. For her, that meant being able to return home to Indiana.

But the process came with challenges.

“I only had to take care of myself when I was gone. So, coming back home and taking care of myself, the boys and my home has been a little bit of a struggle,” Salemink said. “Rebuilding my family and friend relationships has been hard, but I'm making progress. “

It’s a common obstacle for Soldiers getting back to life as they knew it.

Sgt. 1st Class Heather Moran found herself in a similar position after recovering from a serious thumb injury at the Joint Base Lewis McChord WTB and returning to her Army Reserve duties in May.

“A lot changes in two years,” Moran said regarding the time she spent away. “I got so used to being in military mode, but right now I’m taking it one day at a time and enjoying my time with my kids.”

The programs, events and coaching available in the WTB’s are designed to help with the process. Salemink says that played an important role in her transition.

“My Triad Team listened to me, they took care of any and all of my needs,” Salemink said. “If I had any concerns, they found ways to help me succeed. I am so grateful for them & their guidance.”

For other Soldiers in WTB’s working towards returning to duty, she offers this advice: “Have patience with the process, it isn't going to happen over night.”