<b>FORT STEWART, Ga. </b> - Soldiers of the 3rd Infantry Division have begun to return to Fort Stewart, Hunter Army Airfield and Kelley Hill at Fort Benning, after a year-long deployment. The initial reunion is full of hugs and happiness, but learning to be a Family again takes a lot of work.

There are always questions - will my Soldier be different' Will my Soldier still love and need me' Will my Soldier want to spend more time with battle buddies than his Family' When will things feel like normal again'

Whether a Family is going through the redeployment process for the first time or the fourth time, these questions are normal and come up with each deployment, according to Linda Moseley, Stewart-Hunter Army Community Service Mobilization and Deployment Manager.

Even if you've been to a Family reunion briefing in the past, Moseley said it is important to attend before your Soldier returns home this time, as well.

"We've been through so many deployments as a division so these Families, a lot of them, have been here for quite a few deployments," Moseley said. "But I think our approach now is multi-faceted - we're offering so many more services through the new resiliency training, the new programs that are available through ACS. We're using other programs and services as well as re-created a series of additional programs. 'I think before it was simply a briefing and that was it."

Moseley said that this time around, there are many topics discussed in the briefings, and programs offered by ACS, that weren't available in previous years.

"We talk more about intimacy and the relationship; we talk more about connections and connectivity between you and your spouse; and we talk more openly and freely about household problems," she said. "In the past, we've addressed domestic abuse or perhaps traumatic brain injury or PTSD, but [this time] we're making it so it's simply understood by every Family - that if you notice a change in your Soldier or yourself, then it's easily identifiable, and you can seek help early on."

Each unit that is deployed has or will offer 9 or10 Family reunion briefings once the unit is within the 90-day window of returning.

The briefing touches on many of the major questions people have, and gives those in attendance tips on how to make the reintegration process less problematic.

The briefing, given by Moseley or another ACS mobilization and deployment specialist, teaches Family Members to have realistic expectations about how life will be once their Soldier returns, and to talk about what your expectations are before the Soldier comes home.

"Families have to get used to each other again," Moseley said. "Expect that things will be different than they were prior to the deployment."

One spouse, who attended a Family reunion briefing, July 23, was anxious to learn what to expect when her spouse returns from their first deployment as a couple.

"We're learning how to cope with our spouses once they get back; the dos and the don'ts," said Frankie Andrews, wife of Command Sgt. Maj. Jesse Andrews, 3rd ID command sergeant major. Though it is not Command Sgt. Maj. Andrew's first deployment, it is the first he and Frankie have been through together. "We're learning the different symptoms our spouse may have; how to deal with drinking, anger, dealing with their children. We (each) need to be a good, understanding spouse; we need to be patient."

The briefing deals with health issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse and depression, and how to recognize those symptoms in both your Soldier and yourself. Also discussed is how to deal with sharing of experiences - what do you do if your Soldier tells you too much' How do you deal with your Soldier if he or she won't talk about their experiences at all' Moseley said that you need to work it out as a couple - discuss how much you want to know, and also realize that, though you don't know their experiences for the past year, they don't know yours, either. It will take time to adjust to being together day-to-day again, she said.

For those with children, ACS is offering - for the first time - child-specific programs during this time of readjustment leading up to the return of the 3rd ID Soldiers, including Sgt. Rocky's Neighborhood, a puppet show that helps children deal with issues in an age-appropriate setting.

"We haven't had many child-specific programs in the past, and this [redeployment] we have the Sgt. Rocky program, and for the first time we're incorporating pets into the household," Moseley said. "A child receives and copes differently and so when we have these animated characters that come to life the parents enjoy how the material is presented and the children seem to absorb it better."

For one spouse, the topic of children was one that is especially important in her Family.

"(The topic) most important to me is I think the interaction with our Soldiers and children," said Cassandra Spaans, who has a five-year-old daughter with husband Sgt. Dean Spaans, Headquarters and Headquarters Services Company, Division Special Troops Battallion, 3rd ID. "I know how to deal with myself; sometimes you just don't know how to deal with the emotions of the child and how they're going to interact with the spouse and Daddy coming back."

Sergeant Spaans has been deployed for two-and-a-half of the past three years.

"This briefing isn't just because that your spouse is coming back, it's also giving information on how to deal with being separated for a year, and how to mold your lives back together," said Cassandra, who is the HHSC Family Readiness Group leader. "We've been living our separate lives, and we need to get back together, and this [briefing] is actually giving us ideas on how to do that."

Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield ACS is offering workshops for the 90-, 60- and 30-day intervals before homecoming. The ACS mobilization and deployment specialists want to ensure that everyone realizes that reintegration is a process for the Family as a whole.

Page last updated Thu August 19th, 2010 at 16:04