3rd ID Chaplains open resiliency center for deployed Soldiers
July 9, 2013
LOGAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan - U.S. service members have been in combat operations in Afghanistan since September 2001, and along the way they have faced many colossal obstacles and experiences like death, separation, and physical and mental weariness.
On Forward Operating Base Shank in eastern Afghanistan, U.S. service members use many of the services like the Morale Welfare and Recreation centers, chaplain services and the Austin Resiliency Center to relax and unwind from the daily stresses of serving in a hostile combat zone.
U.S. Army chaplains, Capt. Mickey Basham, the 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, chaplain from Nashville, Tenn., and Capt. Travis Hairston, the 4-3 Brigade Special Troops Battalion chaplain from Lufkin, Texas, both with 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, had a vision to expand and remodel a coffee house into a resiliency area for Soldiers to unwind.
The ARC was completed and dedicated June 15, in memory of U.S. Army Pfc. Barrett Austin, an Easley, S.C., native assigned to 4th BSTB, who died April 21, in Landstuhl, Germany, of injuries caused by an improvised explosive device April 17, in Wardak province, Afghanistan, while in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
"It's a place to mentally checkout for a little bit and get away from what you are doing constantly," said U.S. Army Reserves Maj. Amy Alger, a trauma surgeon with the forward surgical team supporting 4th IBCT, also known as the Vanguard Brigade.
Alger, a Chapel Hill, N.C., resident said there are many ways to cope and when things build up, "you don't want to be at the place where you constantly deal with a bad situation."
"Getting to the resiliency center makes it like you are getting away from that ... kind of like a mental vacation," she added "Plus you are around people who can actually understand what you are dealing with."
U.S. Army Spc. Jameson Liner, a Columbus, Ga., native and the chaplain's assistant for 4-3 BSTB, uses his high spirit and smile to invite people to the resiliency center, especially when people are having a bad day.
"If you can make someone laugh, you can change their day around," Liner said.
The ARC features music, cigar smoking, bonfires, indoor and outdoor movie showings, refreshments, snacks, and a small room, known as the Free-X, where Soldiers can get free supplies they might not be able to find at the local exchange.
"It's really grown to a wonderful place for Soldiers to take a deep breath," said U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Andre Gambrell, a Philadelphia native and the 4th IBCT chaplain's assistant.
Other services on FOB Shank include medical services like the Combat Stress Center and Concussion Care Center.
U.S. Army Sgt. Matthew Baskin, a fire support specialist, went on 50 missions and conducted patrols where he was engaged by enemy fire on multiple occasions in Wardak province, while assigned to Company B, 3rd Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, 4th IBCT, but it wasn't until he was inside the safety of his combat patrol base that he experienced his closest call.
After being within 10 meters of the impact area of enemy indirect fire on June 20, Baskin was evacuated to the 703rd Brigade Support Battalion, 4th IBCT, medical facility on FOB Shank and was diagnosed with having a mild concussion.
Being on his first deployment away from his wife and two boys, Baskin had also experienced the death of a fellow soldier from his unit, U.S. Army Spc. Ray Ramirez, of Sacramento, Calif., who died June 1, in Wardak province, from injuries sustained when his unit was attacked by an improvised explosive device.
Remembering the day Ramirez passed away, Baskin said, "I just remember my heart dropping when the medics on the ground said there were no vital signs."
While on FOB Shank, Baskin, of Manassas, Va., said he couldn't sleep and was having a hard time concentrating.
He was then seen by U.S. Army Capt. Karl Umbrasas, a Savannah, Ga., resident and the Vanguard Brigade psychologist, and U.S. Army Capt. Donald Chase, a San Jose, Calif., native and an occupational therapist managing the Concussive Care Center, one of three in Afghanistan.
Baskin had a great experience with Umbrasas and Chase. He said they were very helpful, providing plenty of time to rest, conducting cognitive exercises, and talking about topics not focused on negative experiences. Baskin said he has bounced back and will continue to move forward to support his family, who were also a great help in his recovery.
Soldiers serving across the globe endure similar challenges, and their ability to face such obstacles and continue to charge forward is a testament that these warriors are physically and mentally tough. Senior leaders at all levels strive to ensure service members stay physically and mentally tough to prevent serious incidents from occurring and help those who have experienced traumatic events, to recover.
Umbrasas added, "Everyone is on board, from the lowest level."