Chaplains discuss reintegration programs before Soldiers head home
September 28, 2011
CAMP TAJI, Iraq (Army News Service, Sept. 28, 2011) -- A seminar focused on how chaplains can better prepare and help Soldiers adjust and return to their families in the states was attended recently by chaplains from different commands scattered throughout Iraq.
Lt. Col. Pierre Saint-Fleur, chaplain for the 40th Combat Aviation Brigade, hosted the all-day seminar at the Tigris River Chapel here to discuss various techniques and programs for supporting Soldier reintegration following deployment to Iraq for Operation New Dawn.
A number of the chaplains were from the 40th Combat Aviation Brigade at Camp Taji. Among other chaplains attending were Col. Chester Egert from U.S. Forces-Iraq and Lt. Col. Scott Hammond from U.S. Division-Center.
Capt. Andrew Parker, chaplain for the 1st General Support Aviation Battalion, 171st Aviation Regiment, briefed the group on the merits of a reintegration program for Soldiers and what problems could be expected for Soldiers returning from a year-long deployment and after all the celebrations and the Hollywood scenes have ended.
"The big thing about reintegration is expectations," Parker said. "In our minds, we take a snapshot of what it was like when we left and we are anticipating it to be like that when we get back."
He talked about three areas of concern Soldiers have to cope with: family, friends and work.
"First thing, with the family -- I encourage Soldiers to ease back into it slowly," he said.
Spouses and families have learned to pay bills, ensure the kids get to school and how to live without their Soldiers, he added, noting that it takes time for families to adjust to their Soldiers and that can take a few months. He suggested the Soldiers take a few months to slowly pick up where they left off.
Parker said Soldiers should resume communication with their children to let them know that things are different, but gradually ease back into the parental role. If a Soldier were to jump in and take the reigns as if he or she never left, it could cause additional stress on the family.
"Having time to reconnect with each of them individually, over the course of time -- that's a helpful way to re-acclimate with each one of your children," Parker said. "And, it is certainly true as well for your spouse."
He recommended the same thing regarding friends; to slowly reintegrate with them and to gradually re-establish communications with them. Those friends, like family, had to continue on for a year without the Soldier, he cautioned.
The chaplains next discussed problems that could arise with Reserve or National Guard Soldiers returning to their civilian jobs. They discussed ways Soldiers could ease back into the work routine because the change from military to civilian employment could be a shock.
The chaplains discussed how an after-action review of the deployment could be helpful for a Soldier's readjustment to civilian life. They felt if the Soldiers evaluated their time overseas, reviewed the positives and negatives of the deployment, that after a few months back home a new perspective on their reintegration could be gained.
Reconnecting with families and friends, work, churches and communities could be a challenging experience. With the deployment to Iraq winding down for most Soldiers here, the chaplains said they want to make sure the reintegration back into the civilian world is as smooth as possible.