March 8, 2010
FORT HOOD, Texas- As some First Team Soldiers and their Families rack up second, third and even fourth deployments, the Army is continuing to adapt new ways to help them cope with the increased operational tempo and the stop-and-start transitions between life deployed and life at home.
Soldiers and Families of 2nd "Black Jack" Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, have sought assistance from Military Family Life Counselors to help married and single Soldiers adjust to life following a long deployment.
"A year of separation from loved ones creates challenges," said Maj. James Lee who helped coordinate the family life counselors for the brigade. "Soldiers and families are the Army's number-one resource, it is imperative that we assist the Soldiers and families through the reintegration process."
Many challenges await Soldiers freshly returned from deployment, as 2nd BCT troopers recently returned from a year-long deployment to Kirkuk, Iraq.
"There are strained marriages, financial difficulties, or even just difficulty adjusting back to the mainstream after a year deployed," he said. "A Soldier may have valued their mission in theater...to such a degree that they have difficulty letting go of that identity and returning to what they may perceive as a mundane life."
"Maybe a Soldier or their Family has a situation, and they can go to these [counselors]," said Diane Ross, the chief of the Soldier and Family Readiness Center at Fort Hood.
These are people that Soldiers and families can go to with any issue-whether it is related to deployment or just normal daily stresses-and talk about anything, she explained.
According to Ross, this program is not mandatory for all returning units, but it has increased dramatically in popularity as more units see the benefit.
The program is Department of Defense-wide, with counselors moving between bases to supplement each separate garrison's family life staff.
"The DoD realized that we were in need of more behavioral health assistance, especially with all the deployments," said Ross.
This program is distinct from previous ones in that it doesn't just focus on the well-being of Soldiers but also encourages families to participate.
Counselors are willing to meet with family members on and off-post and are very flexible with their schedules, said Ross.
As the program continues to grow in popularity, the negative association often attached to Soldiers seeking mental health assistance is fading fast.
Soldiers see their commanders, platoon sergeants and leadership going through the same counseling and that helps them understand that everyone needs a little help sometimes, according to Ross.
"The Army is a big family...it is refreshing to see how we are caring for one another without a stigma associated," said Lee. "Let's face it. We all have problems in our life, and all too often, we feel we are the only ones. That makes us afraid to talk about it. There is goodness in confession...to share and open up and care for one another."