Fort Bragg's reunion training helps Soldiers, Families reunite
March 13, 2009
FORT BRAGG, N.C. - "Reunion is not always easy, is it'" asked Chaplain (Col.) Larry McCarty, the Task Force Bragg chaplain, at the beginning of the battlemind reunion training session for the XVIII Airborne Corps senior spouses Mar. 4.
In order to help Soldiers and Families adapt to the changes and difficulties that come with redeployment, Soldiers and their spouses receive battlemind reunion training.
Even though many Army couples have been through numerous deployments and the eventual reunions, the training is still important to help Soldiers and their Families face the challenges that arise when the Family reunites and reintegrates into each other's daily lives.
"Even if you've been through multiple deployments, each one is different," said Angie Streets, program manager, Mobilization and Deployment, Army Community Service. "It is important for you to discuss your expectations and what your spouse's expectations are when he (or she) returns from deployment."
In addition to each spouse having different expectations of how things are going to be or what is going to happen when they reunite, the Soldier often faces adjustment issues that may affect his or her ability to sleep, cause a feeling of loss of control and hinder his or her ability to reconnect or communicate with their Family.
With the additional stress of long separations and combat, the resiliency of Soldiers and their Families is facing additional challenges. McCarty compared a person's ability to bounce back when pressured to a stress ball resuming it's shape after being squeezed.
"As Soldiers come back home, we're finding that some people are being squeezed and not bouncing back," said McCarty.
Soldiers face different challenges as they reintegrate and reunite at home, no matter what their rank, age or Family status. Canadian Brig. Gen. Nicolas Matern, deputy commanding general of XVIII Airborne Corps, stood before the group and discussed some of the challenges and issues faced from a Soldier's perspective and his personal experience.
"It's all about anticipation," said Matern. "You're separated for such a long time and you have an idea in your head about how things are going to be back home. The problem is, things have evolved back home and changed since you've been gone."
With deployment lengths ranging from three to 18 months, a lot of changes can take place at home.
"The children keep growing up. The spouses at home change and their roles change," said Streets. "The spouse at home takes on the role of mom and dad as well as additional roles outside the home as they strengthen friendships and become more involved with the Army community through their family readiness group and other support systems."
The battlemind reunion training helps Soldiers and their Families learn about the actions they can take when they encounter issues, how to restore an emotional balance and learning where they can compromise on expectations and activities.
They learn about flexibility and understanding some of the emotions the Soldier may be feeling like a possible need for order and control or reassurances of their partner's loyalty and commitment.
Spouses learn about recognizing cues that impact daily life that serve as warning signs their Soldier may need help, including nightmares, anger, substance and alcohol abuse, performance problems, aggressive driving and not making future plans.
They also learn about recognizing signs that they may need help including depression, anger, difficulty sleeping, sleeping too much, appetite changes, taking frustrations out on others and isolation themselves from others.
McCarty broke down the reunion process into what he called the "big four."
"Just remember the big four to help you through the changes. Number one, redeployment is a process, not an event. Everything doesn't go back to normal once your Soldier gets off the plane," said McCarty. "Number two, expect ups and downs. Three, don't over schedule homecoming activities. And, number four, if you need help - ask for it."
He added that couples experiencing problems can always talk to a chaplain confidentially about anything.
"If problems are ignored instead of addressed, they tend to fester and worsen instead of going away," said McCarty. "The most important thing is each other and your relationship," said McCarty.