Grey Wolf spouses prepare to reunite with their Soldiers
October 11, 2007
FORT HOOD, Texas - The 1st Cavalry Division's 3rd "Grey Wolf" Brigade Combat Team rear detachment held a Reunion Workshop Oct. 9 at the Oveta Culp Hobby Soldier and Family Readiness Center to prepare the unit's spouses for what to expect when their Soldier returns here from a 15-month deployment to Iraq in the next few months.
The workshop, which was the fourth of nine put on by the brigade, featured speakers from several of the post's support organizations available to Soldiers and their families, including Army Community Service, the Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center and Military Family Life Consultants.
Cherie Cain, who is a Grey Wolf spouse and is with Army Community Service Mobilization and Deployment, talked to the other spouses about expectations and concerns, both from the Soldier and of the Soldier.
Several of the spouses hoped they would be able to just turn over the kids to their newly returned husband and take a vacation, or just go to store alone - without the stroller, car seats or diaper bags.
But, according to Cain, a native of Hudson, Fla., the Soldiers will have things they want to do as well, and everyone's expectations need to be realistic and things need to be taken slow.
"Be patient, take your time, and ease into it," Cain said.
Cain also explained that a major concern was how the Soldier would fit back into the kids' lives without stepping on any toes.
Because a lot changes in a child's life during the course of a deployment, she has had the spouse at home send a copy of the kids' daily routine to her husband in Iraq, so he would know how he fits back into that new schedule when he comes home.
With all the changes that will be happening when the Soldier comes home, it is important to keep some stability in the schedule for the kids, Cain said.
She explained to the spouses that communication with their husbands and kids about what things will be like when he returns from deployment will make the transition back into home life a lot easier.
The message about communication being vital was echoed by Waterbury, Conn., native Cpl. Matt Kowalewski, a mental health technician at the Fort Hood Resilience and Restoration Center.
"Change is a big thing, and communication is going to be the biggest thing," Kowalewski said. "Things have changed while [the Soldier] was away."
Kowalewski said if there were problems at home before the Soldier deployed, then they will still be there when he comes home because separation doesn't solve any problems.
"Separations don't solve problems, people solve problems," Kowalewski said.
He explained that the first 90 days after the Soldier returns home is known as the honeymoon period, because nothing matters, he will just be glad to be home and the family will be glad to be home.
After the honeymoon period, the little things that have changed, like leaving the cap off the toothpaste or leaving the last little piece of toilet paper on the roll, may cause people to get angry, Kowalewski said.
"Communication and active listening will help solve these problems," Kowalewski said.
Kowalewski also explained that a there are a number of normal, involuntary reactions to the stresses of deployment that returning Soldiers may experience.
Things such as feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, easily irritable or depressed, having flashbacks or trouble sleeping are all normal ways people cope with deployment and reunion.
They may also have difficulty talking about their experiences, especially with someone who has never been deployed, Kowalewski said.
"I can ask you a hundred times, 'What's childbirth like''" he said to the ladies in the audience. "I'll never know."
Some of the indicators that a Soldier needs to seek professional help might include: excessive drinking, using illegal drugs, going on a spending or gambling spree, reckless driving or engaging in excessive risk-taking behaviors.
"The clearest sign that a normal reaction may be more serious is when it starts to interfere with normal living," Kowalewski said.
Sources of help for Soldiers include Army Community Service, mental health professionals, Army One Source, and unit chaplains, he said.
Also included in the workshop was an overview of what will happen to the Soldiers when they return and how the families will be notified.
According to Sgt. Maj. Geoffrey Harris, a Deland, Fla., native and the senior noncommissioned officer for the brigade's rear detachment, the rear detachment will call every spouse or other designated family member and let them know when their Soldier's welcome home ceremony will be on Cooper Field at the division headquarters.
Harris said to arrive at least an hour and a half prior to scheduled ceremony time, in case the flight arrives a little bit early.
After the short ceremony, the Soldiers will be released for a three-day pass, but must remain within a 150-mile radius of Fort Hood.
Maj. Jason Kniffen, the Grey Wolf rear detachment commander, told the spouses that after the Soldiers return from their pass, they will begin a half-day schedule of reintegration processing and classes, a few of which are open to family members, before they are allowed to take leave.
Kniffen, a native of Clyde, Texas, told the spouses to encourage their Soldiers to take the leave, because training starts after the allotted leave period, and they may not have an opportunity to take leave again.