Toner acknowledged that as populations and time remaining dwindle, some soldiers may have to move; WTU stints can last as long as two years.

Civilian, active-duty and reserve component workers at WTUs will also have to be moved or reassigned.

The 10 WTUs closing over the next year: Fort Gordon, Georgia; Fort Knox, Kentucky; Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia; Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri; Fort Sill, Oklahoma; Fort Polk, Louisiana; Fort Wainwright, Alaska; Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska; Fort Meade, Maryland; and Naval Medical Center, California.

Most of the locations serve 50 or fewer soldiers, and four serve fewer less than 20. Fort Gordon at 280 and Fort Knox at 200 are the only WTUs serving 100 soldiers or more.

"We addressed the need at the height of conflict, and we are addressing the need as we come back down," said Toner. "We're also matching our Warrior Transition Units to where our largest troop densities are and where our best medical centers are."

Reports of soldier suicides, crimes and allegedly wrongful discharges of soldiers from the Army has led to an investigation of a Warrior Transition battalion. Above, an Army Warrior Transition Unit insignia is seen. (Army)
Reports of soldier suicides, crimes and allegedly wrongful discharges of soldiers from the Army has led to an investigation of a Warrior Transition battalion. Above, an Army Warrior Transition Unit insignia is seen. (Army)

The number of soldiers at WTUs has dipped to 3,654.

Photo Credit: Army

"We've broken down a lot of the walls that existed early on (in the wars) to address this," Toner said.

Further closures are not planned, though continuous strategic review processes will keep the option on the table.

WTUs will remain in 13 continental U.S. locations: Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington; Fort Carson, Colorado; Fort Bliss, Texas; Joint Base San Antonio, Texas; Fort Hood, Texas; Fort Riley, Kansas; Fort Campbell, Kentucky; Fort Benning, Georgia; Fort Stewart, Georgia; Fort Bragg, North Carolina; Fort Belvior, Virginia; Walter Reed Medical Center, Maryland; and Fort Drum, New York. The other two are at Tripler Army Medical Center in Hawaii and European Medical Command in Kaiserslautern, Germany.

As the closures only add distance between a given soldier's home and the nearest WTU, Toner said CCUs only become more important. Each remaining WTU will have CCU capabilities.

"We feel that we should have functions at each location to help reduce that kind of friction," Toner said.

Since inception in 2007 WTUs have served about 66,000, of which the Army says about 29,000 managed to return to duty.

Re-purposing people, buildings

The roughly 200 active-duty soldiers working at the deactivating WTUs can be reassigned and the 125 more in the reserve component serve limited commitment terms. But about 300 civilian employees face a more profound impact: Their full-time jobs disappear. The Army will reassign them based on skill set and vacancies.

Last year, when five WTUs closed, Toner said no civilian employees were forced into unemployment lines. Then as now, Toner said, options may include a position at a medical center where they're currently working or a job at a different WTU.

"I don't see why we can't do it," Toner said of keeping all affected Department of the Army civilians employed. "We're fully committed to taking care of our civilians."

Meanwhile, the Army will "make every attempt" to let reservists on active-duty status at WTUs serve out their commitment. Toner said in most cases where they can't, "we'll have to work with them for their respective reserve component to support them on their assignment."

And the buildings themselves?

The Army will retain and re-purpose the 10 facilities into barracks (some of the facilities were WTU barracks), headquarters space or other use. Toner also said he's working with Installation Management Command to ensure the facilities remain Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant so they could quickly revert into WTUs again.

Continuing the mission amid scrutiny

While an institution uniquely designed for physically and psychologically injured soldiers, WTUs have come under fire in recent years as investigations and reports at Fort Carson, Fort Hood and Fort Bragg have spotlighted examples of harassment and abuse of soldiers, and substandard care.

Toner stressed — echoing Army Surgeon General Lt. Gen. Patricia Horoho — that allegations of abuse and gross mistreatment remain limited in number. He and Horoho also said the problems were first found by the Army's own procedures. For example, Toner said, the investigation by NBC5 and the Dallas Morning News into Fort Hood stemmed from Army reports and included nothing the Army didn't know.

"I'd have to imagine we are probably the most inspected organizations in the Army," Toner said. "And I welcome that. We need that kind of attention, we need that kind of oversight, so we maintain the importance of the program and our requirements to take care of these wonderful soldiers."

Important issues to monitor, according to Toner, include "compassion fatigue" and burnout. Cadre assignments at WTUs are capped at 24 months. Meanwhile, medical providers, he said, can be vulnerable to biases when shifting from someone with, for example, extreme behavioral and cognitive problems caused by post-traumatic stress or a brain injury to someone with more moderate symptoms.

Toner and his command sergeant major have visited 14 WTUs in his just under nine months in command; he said the reduced number of WTUs will make oversight easier logistically. During visits, he talks with soldiers under WTU care — with chain of command and employees out of the room. He does the same with civilian employees and commanders as well in an effort to get a candid feel for the facility.

He also said that he tells commanders to Google the WTU coverage out of Fort Hood. The Dallas Morning News and NBC 5 in November published a joint investigation on alleged mistreatment at the post. Toner instructs commander to ignore any impulse to push back, and instead assume the reports of abuse are accurate.

"Make sure it doesn't happen in your formation," he said he tells them.