Medics receive battlemind training to help fellow Soldiers
September 19, 2008
Hundreds of Fort Drum Soldiers received training last week on one aspect of war that does not always take precedence: the battle of the mind.
Retired 1st Sgt. Michael Rinehart, training specialist from the U.S. Army Medical Department Center and School, came from Fort Sam Houston, Texas, to offer Battlemind Warrior Resiliency Training. It was integrated into the advanced individual training for health care specialists and AMEDD Officer Basic Leader Course / Basic Officer Leader Course curriculum in July, and a mobile training team teaches it to Soldiers throughout the Army.
Rinehart offered two-hour courses for those certified in combat life saving and four-hour courses for medics, to teach them how to help themselves and others when they are dealing with stresses of military life. The medics' portion was a "train the trainer" segment, to give them valuable information to take back and teach fellow medics and others.
"Warriors go to other warriors - someone they trust - when they have a problem, and you need to know how to deal with it," Rinehart told Soldiers. "And for some of you, they are already coming to you."
Rinehart talked about how some people are more able to cope than others, and even mild stressors can set people off.
"You can get (stress) from standing in line at Wal-Mart," he said.
He told participants they should make it their responsibility to help fellow Soldiers be mentally prepared for combat or other deployments.
"You can't keep sending bodies where you haven't trained their minds to go. If you send them before their minds are ready, there's a price and you're going to pay it. Treat them now, or you'll treat them later," Rinehart said. "Preparing yourself and your Family is extremely important, too.
"Medics, especially, do everything they can for others - stay up late for their Soldiers, take care of their Soldiers - but they don't take care of themselves," he added. "Don't forget about the ones who don't necessarily have battle buddies looking out for them, like the commander and the doc."
Rinehart also talked about those who already are suffering effects of deployments.
"The warriors need to understand that their thoughts and emotions are common, they're fine, they're predictable," he said. "We need to help diminish the stigma and barriers to seeking behavioral health care if people know they're struggling. Some people don't go because they think others will look down on them, think they're incompetent or crazy or weak, but they need to know that what they're going through is normal."
Rinehart said it is important for Soldiers to find a way to tell their Families what they have been through.
"It's important to be able to redevelop the same cohesive bonds that you developed with your fellow warriors with the people who should be the most important in your life - your Family," he said. "You have to be able to discuss your experiences in a way you're comfortable telling it, and above all, you have a right to be proud of your service."
Rinehart added that medics should take it seriously that some Soldiers really need help.
"You should ensure early identification of an at-risk warrior," he said. "You're no longer the medic friend, you're the medic authority. If you know someone who's acting like they're still downrange, but they're sitting at home, there's a problem."
He talked about the TAIL light effect. Warriors need help getting help, and this acronym gives some pointers.
T: Tell them you are concerned; listen to their story without getting in the way, and then tell them what you are seeing and hearing so they can hear it back.
A: All are impacted by war, and it could be any Soldier, so watch out for each other during deployment and at home.
I: Insist they see someone, and have names and numbers of resources available, like a chaplain or behavioral health professionals. Explain that you have been taught enough to know when to be worried, but not enough to treat them. Remind them they would do the same for you, as a good battle buddy.
L: Look for ways to help, whether it is offering to go with them, make the phone call for them, drive them, get directions for them. Check back with them often, letting them know you are there to help and that you are not going to let this drop.
Rinehart also emphasized how medics deal with the death of a Soldier.
"You can't think you're not worthy to do your job because a Soldier died," he said. "People die when you do everything right. You have to be genuine about that and honest with yourself and others."
Maj. Matthew Barry, chief of psychiatric services, Behavioral Health, USA MEDDAC, facilitated bringing the training to Fort Drum, because he sees many people who suffer from common stress and emotional issues stemming from the high operational tempo here.
"We want people to know that it is most common for Soldiers to turn to their peers, but here is what to do if it is over your head," Barry said. "We need to break down the stigma that holds people back from getting help. No one is being held back from promotion - there is no adverse effect to getting help.
"The good news is, what they are going through is completely treatable," he added. "People feel like they can't be helped, but if they get the right treatment and stay away from avoidance techniques, like drinking and drugging, it is treatable."