'Devil Brigade' Soldiers stand ready and resilient A Soldier's journey through depression
August 19, 2014
CAMP BUEHRING, Kuwait - Spc. Nathan Anderson, air defense battle system operator with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st ABCT, 1st Inf. Div., has been fighting a silent battle against sadness, anxiety, and depression since arriving to the region more than a month ago.
The work days are long and, the air is hot and dry. The whips the scorching air and sand around wind at a steady 25 miles per hour, stinging the skin as it strikes. Anderson a native of El Paso, Texas sits in front of his containerized living unit with his head down as he opens up about his emotional state and feeling depressed.
"I am not totally depressed about being here, because most of the people I associate with back at Fort Riley are out here with me," Anderson said. "I am sad because my wife is five months pregnant with our first child and I am not there to help her."
Anderson said he doesn't want anyone thinking that he is not a team player or suffering from depression, because he's not.
"I have good days and bad days," he said. "I feel my wife's anxiety and fears and do my very best to calm her down and it kills me on the inside, because I cannot do anything to help her from here."
He said his wife suffered a miscarriage almost a year ago and they are still feeling the loss to this day.
"As a husband I have to be strong to keep me wife calm and confident so she will make it through this pregnancy, but on the inside I am just as scared and pray we don't lose another child and I cannot show it." "Its getting harder and harder everyday I am here to stay positive."
Anderson said some of the noncommissioned officers in the company are always talking about how easy this deployment is compared to their last one, because no one is shooting at them.
"I am happy that no one is shooting at us, but some days it is a real challenge just trying to make it through the day and it's taking a toll on me," Anderson said. "We work long hours and you walk around smiling and acting like you are happy when you talk to people when you really just want to be alone.
Anderson said many of the younger Soldiers feel sad, but because some of the senior leaders in the company have seen combat several times, there is a misconception that they cannot talk about feeling sad or show fear.
"You can't even talk about how you feel in public, because someone may come by and ask what are complaining about and tell you how good we have it here in Kuwait," Anderson said. "While I am at work I have so much going on that I don't have a lot of time to think about anything, but as soon as my shift ends I think about my best friend, my wife, who is all alone without me."
Capt. Pamela Alderman, health officer, 1st ABCT, 1st Inf. Div., said historically men have attached talking to a health care professional or therapist with the stigma of being perceived as weak, unable to take care of themselves or suicidal, which is far from the truth. Many just need short term therapy to get them back on track.
"This is common for young Soldiers on their first deployment to feel anxiety and stress during the early stages," Alderman said. "Sadness is a normal feeling people experience all the time, but it's when Soldiers experiences this for more than two weeks they may be suffering from clinical depression and need to seek help.
Anderson said it is very hard being here, because he lives with three other Soldiers and never feels like he has a place to just relax and think. "After talking to my wife I just want to be alone and not have to talk to anyone."
Chaplain (Maj.) Michael McDonald, Brigade Chaplain, said Soldiers are always welcome to visit the Spiritual Life Center near the USO on Buehring. The Spiritual Life Center is a part of the Brigade's initiative to address Soldiers emotional and spiritual needs and offer them a place to relax and recuperate.
"It is a quiet place for Soldiers to get away, sit in one of the many massage chairs with a cup of coffee and listen to the soothing sounds of the water feature." Chaplains are available for Soldiers seeking spiritual guidance and counseling," McDonald said.
The "devil" brigade has implemented the Army's Ready and Resilient program to improve Soldiers minds, bodies and souls, while providing them with opportunities to take in-theater Morale Welfare and Recreation trips to help relieve some of stress of deployment, said Maj. Christopher Ellis, brigade executive officer.
The Army Ready and Resilient Campaign is a program designed to address the immediate and enduring needs of the total Army. It also emphasizes the importance of physical, physiological and emotional factors in determining comprehensive fitness and promoting a deliberate approach to building and sustaining resilience.
"Our goal is to ensure that Soldiers have time off so they can call or Skype with family and friends," Ellis said. "We have a family type of attitude in the brigade and want to ensure every Soldier gets through this deployment."
Ellis said they have organized professional classes and programs for Soldiers to speak with behavior health counselors or chaplains as well as taking classes in effective communication, relationship building, stress management, and coping skills to mitigate depression and anxiety in the unit.
"It has been wonderful being able to open up to someone without feeling like they are judging you and relieved most of my anxiety about the deployment," Anderson said. "They gave me information about an organization back on Riley that can assist my wife as well." It feels good knowing we are not alone.
Alderman said their mission is to preserve the fighting force and to identify Soldiers in our formation experiencing mental health issues, get them the help they need and back where they need to be.