Army Prepares Spouses for Reunion, Reintegration
November 2, 2007
FORT HOOD, Texas (Army News Service, Nov. 2, 2007) - As the Families of the 1st Cavalry Division's 15th Sustainment Brigade welcome their Soldiers home, the rest of the First Team spouses are spending time learning what to expect and how to prepare for the reunion with their loved ones.
Spouses from the 1st Air Cavalry Brigade came together to learn what to expect from their returning Soldiers during Reunion and Reintegration Training on Oct. 25 at the Oveta Culp Hobby Soldier and Family Readiness Center here.
Mary Prater, a Family Advocacy Program representative, spoke to spouses about how to slowly reintegrate their Soldier back into Family life.
"This is a stressful time for not only the Families, but for the Soldiers as well," she said. "There have been many changes for both the Soldiers and the Families in the last year. You must work together top adjust to these changes."
It can also be difficult for the children to adjust.
"Many children may have a lot of questions. They may act out for attention, or be resentful to the parent for leaving," Ms. Prater said. "Continue with the current routines, discipline and activities, and slowly integrate your spouse back into these areas of life."
Following Family advocacy, Dave Gretsch from Army Community Service discussed how to correctly plan for reintegrating the deployed parent back into the family.
"It's important to communicate with your Soldiers - both now and when they get home," he said. "There will be obvious changes. Time changes everything - take the time to take in these changes before reacting to them."
During the open discussion with the spouses, Bridgit Lawson, wife of Staff Sgt. Darren Lawson, 4th Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, explained what she has learned about reunion.
"We can't come together and have a successful reunion if we don't communicate and compromise," she said. "The Army has a version of C2 - command and control. But in reunion you can't have command and control if you want it to work. You have to communicate and compromise through the hard times and changes that happened while you were apart."
Also, Stacy Nelson, a social-work case manager, discussed how the stresses of the deployment may affect Soldiers, and how to tell the difference between Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and post-deployment (combat) stress.
"One-hundred percent of Soldiers returning from Iraq will have some form of combat stress. Everyone in this room will have combat stress," she said. "However, only five to ten percent of the returning Soldiers will develop full PTSD."
Ms. Nelson gave them an idea of what to expect.
"Many of your husbands will not want to talk about what they have experienced, others will have family or friends tell them to not think about it," she continued. "But not talking about it and holding everything in can be harmful."
Ms. Nelson explained that the mind is like a filing cabinet and sometimes it takes a while for it to figure out where everything goes.
"When people hold in bad experiences and don't talk about what they have seen, done or been through, the mind doesn't have a chance to process the information and put it away so that it no longer affects day-to-day activities," she said. "Talk to your spouses, and remember that you don't need full details to communicate and help them through this process."
"Reintegration is not only for the Soldiers," pointed out Maj. Shane Curtis, the 1st Air Cav. Bde. rear-detachment commander. "There is also a portion of the training that is for the spouses and both the Soldiers and spouses are encouraged to attend."
Ms. Prater encouraged all of the spouses and their Soldiers to communicate and use their resources, while Mr. Gretsch reminded them that things will take 30-90 days before they feel normal again.
But all Soldiers and Families need to remember that there have been major changes made at home and abroad during the past year. Things will never be as they were before the deployment.
Ms. Nelson made the final key comment: "There will be a new normal. Give yourself and your spouse time to adjust, reunite and reintegrate."
(Sgt. Cheryl Cox works for the 1st Cavalry Division Public Affairs Office.)