WTB welcomes new commander
Lt. Col. Eric Schmidt, incoming commander, WTB, smiles after delivering his remarks during a change of command ceremony June 5 at the WTB Clamshell Building. Schmidt said he hopes to make the organization even stronger during his tenure. Photo by: Julie Fiedler, POST.
Story by: Julie Fiedler
1ST INF. DIV. POST
The Warrior Transition Battalion went through a transition of its own as Lt. Col. Christopher Zielke relinquished command to Lt. Col. Eric Schmidt during a change of command ceremony June 5 at the WTB Clamshell Building.
As the senior reviewing commander at the ceremony, Col. Barry Pockrandt, commander, Irwin Army Community Hospital, bid his farewell to Zielke and welcomed Schmidt, and he reflected on the mission of the WTB to provide care, nurse case management, command and control, and transition assistance for wounded, ill or injured Soldiers.
"I think it's a fair assumption that when these warriors put pen to paper many years ago, that the WTB was not in their career plan," Pockrandt said. "But life happens. Illness and injury of all varieties affect our service members. The uniform does not make us immune to life and its associated dangers."
Fulfilling the mission of healing and returning Soldiers to duty or transitioning them to the civilian world can be a complex process, he said, adding that he was grateful to Zielke and his Family for dedicating the past two years to that effort.
"You have consistently demonstrated care, compassion and commitment to the mission," Pockrandt told Zielke. "You have demonstrated unbelievably strong optimism and positive spirit as you dealt with the many challenges. Hundreds of warriors and their Families owe you a debt of gratitude. Scores of cadre, hospital staff are grateful for your contributions, leadership, your presence, your optimism, your commitment to them, to the mission and to these warriors."
During his remarks, Zielke recalled his early days in command. He didn't quite know what to expect, he said, and within his first two months, he navigated a high-level inspection, implemented a new assistance program and attended a division-level change of command.
"It never slows down," he said. "This last 25 months as your commander has been a real adventure for me. As we move from one adventure to the next, my wife and I will look back on this very fondly."
For many commanders, their goal is to leave behind a stronger unit than when they arrived, according to Schmidt.
"(The WTB is) a great organization now," he said. "(I'm) looking forward to improve upon the care that we can provide the wounded warriors."
During his remarks, Schmidt said he was grateful for the opportunity to take on the challenges that lay ahead.
"This is no small task," he said. "I'd like to communicate to all of you, just how proud I am of the men and women that are standing before you and who they represent, their absolute, resolute commitment to fulfilling their duties as leaders, medical providers and warriors of transition ... I'm both humbled and comforted in the knowledge that our wounded, ill and injured warriors are receiving the best care, either returning to the ranks or perhaps transitioning to the next meaningful chapter in their lives outside the Army."
In his new role, Schmidt looks forward to working with the Families and the warriors with the unit, as well as being part of the Fort Riley community, he said.
In welcoming Schmidt to his new role as commander, Pockrandt urged him to take the mission and the care of the Soldier to heart.
"It is now up to you and your command team to lead and to care for all that has been entrusted to you," Pockrandt told him. "Welcome to this great unit. Now let's get to work."