Wounded Warrior Gets Back in the Fight Thanks to Operation Warfighter

In 2005, Captain Wes Knight’s life and career was forever changed by an explosively formed penetrator (EFP).  The explosion destroyed his right hand, and severed his right thumb.  After being medically evacuated to Walter Reed Army Medical Center from Iraq, he was assigned to the Army Warrior Transition Unit (WTU).  Although the WTU was not his beloved “Dogfaced Soldier” command at 3rd Infantry Division after graduating from West Point, he knew it was his new home with a new mission – get better and get back in the fight. 

CPT Wes Knight, US Army, Iraq War Veteran and Operation Warfighter Success Story

But the new mission was harder than expected for Wes, and while recovering at Walter Reed, Wes’ spirits were challenged by surgery after surgery.  Ultimately, he began to believe that the life he once knew was gone forever, and that his new mission to get well was all he had to hold onto.  Another command seemed more and more unlikely.

As recovery progressed and the reality of his injury set in, fear and uncertainty became the controlling emotions “I was very scared,” Knight said.  His injury was not severe enough to force his retirement, but it was too severe for him to stay in the armor branch work for which he had trained.  So what was next?

 “My plan had always been to do five years’ service as an armor officer, then get out and do what people are supposed to do: get a job somewhere,” Knight said. The unexpected injury changed the timing of his plans and left him feeling lost. 

“I had no clue what my future held. I had been used to the Army telling me ‘This is your job, this is what you’re gonna do,’” he said. “Suddenly it’s ‘Now what do you want to do?’ and ‘What can you do?’ It’s very overwhelming.”

Captain Knight had been pondering these decisions through 18 months of recovery at Walter Reed when he was introduced to Patrick Brick from Operation Warfighter.

 In a short phone conversation, Brick explained the program and asked Knight what kind of work he thought he might enjoy. “I had absolutely no idea,” Knight said, “but I mentioned I had always wondered about military intelligence.”

 Within a few days, Brick had arranged for Captain Knight to interview with the intelligence team at Army G-2, the U.S. Army Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence. A few days after that, Knight was informed that Army G-2 had specially requested him as a branch-transfer to their office. The internship came as a sudden surprise, but Knight was honored and excited by the opportunity.

Captain Knight was given tasks that helped him develop new skills such as mastering computer programs and preparing reports. There were also assignments where he could provide valuable insight based on his combat experience in Iraq.  Most importantly, he felt a lot of encouragement and mentorship from the staff at G-2.

“People were always willing to break out the crayons and coloring books to explain what military intelligence was to a first lieutenant who really had no business to be at that level,” he said.  “I still can’t believe how many high-level people took the time to explain why a task was important and how it would impact the work there at Army G-2.”

 “Now, a few years later, I look back and I can feel proud that I helped make a difference, and I can see how much effort they made to help me learn,” he said.

 After six months, Captain Knight knew he wanted to stay in the Army and pursue a career in military intelligence.  Fear and uncertainty gave way to inspiration and a renewed commitment to accomplish his original mission – get better, and get back in the fight.

Captain Knight completed the Military Intelligence Captain’s Career course and received an assignment at Fort Meade, where he has been stationed for almost three years. He was recently promoted to company commander. He credits Operation Warfighter with his successful transition back to duty while assigned to the Army’s Warrior Transition Unit.

 “If you’d have told me one little phone call or email would change my life like this, I wouldn’t have believed it,” he said. “Operation Warfighter put me in touch with the right people and got me the right training for me to begin on the right path.”

This was one Dogface Soldier that would not lie down.  Commander Knight is back in the fight – mission accomplished.

 

 

Operation Warfighter is sponsored by the Office of Wounded Warrior Care and Transition Policy for recovering Service members.

Mr. Patrick Brick, of the Office of Wounded Warrior Care and Transition Policy has assisted in the administration of the program for the past two years, and has earned the distinction of becoming a critical component of the department’s goal to reduce the unemployment rate for transitioning wounded, ill, and injured service members.

To learn more about Operation Warfighter, please send an email to warriorcare@osd.mil, and ask for Patrick.  To learn how this, and other programs can fit into your comprehensive recovery care plan, contact your Service’s wounded warrior command, or to just share your own story.

Follow other stories of sucessful Army WTU transitions at http://www.army.mil/warriorcarenews/