CAMP TAJI, Iraq - Army chaplains with a Fort Riley, Kan., aviation brigade are busy preparing their unit for its return from a year-long tour in Iraq this spring.

The Enhanced Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Infantry Division is scheduled to return to the states after completing its deployment in support of operations Iraqi Freedom and New Dawn.

In the months leading up to the redeployment, the brigade's unit ministry teams are ramping up their efforts to provide the returning Soldiers with the skills they need to battle a new type of enemy. The chaplains are primarily concerned with preventing suicide and helping Soldiers work through social issues commonly associated with returning from a deployment, said Chaplain (Capt.) Al Rivera.

"Soldiers change after a year away. Spouses change, children change, and even the dog changes,"said Rivera, "but change isn't a bad thing when we learn to deal with it, to overcome the obstacles that come with change."

Assigned to the 601st Aviation Support Battalion, Rivera is one of six chaplains deployed with the brigade.

The chaplain's preparations are in keeping with the Army's Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program, which focuses on strengthening service members' physical, emotional, spiritual, social, and family health. In addition to religious services, they are holding suicide prevention training, resiliency training, divorce recovery counseling, marriage counseling, and financial counseling.

Rivera's ministry team has trained 22 new "gatekeepers," Soldiers taught to detect and prevent suicide within their unit, as well as given refresher courses to about 40 existing gatekeepers. Ministry teams from the rest of the brigade are following suit with similar training.

"We're busy getting a head start on these issues that the Army has seen coming up a lot when units come home," said Rivera.

The chaplains' efforts will not end, but rather double when the unit returns. They will have an active role in the unit's reintegration process, providing mandatory briefs and classes, as well as hosting several retreats designed to strengthen bonds between Soldiers and Families.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16