1049th Transportation Company navigates the demobilization process
May 25, 2012
Joint Base McGuire Dix Lakehurst N.J. -- On a rain soaked afternoon, family and friends cheered as more than 150 Soldiers slowly filed off a plane. Members of the 1049th Transportation Company, Delaware National Guard, are ready to begin their demobilization process after a yearlong deployment in Afghanistan.
"The demobilization process is a critical part of redeployment. We need Soldiers to focus on ensuring they resolve all issues -- medical, dental, behavioral health and administrative -- before they go home to their families," explained Col. Michael S. Shrout, commander, 72nd Field Artillery Brigade, First Army Division East. The 72nd FA Bde., oversees the demobilization process for all Reserve Component Soldiers redeploying through on JBMDL.
"We care a great deal about each Soldier who returns from deployment. Our number one priority is to ensure each individual Soldier receives quality, focused care during the demobilization process," Shrout stressed.
The demobilization process starts by welcoming the Soldiers home. Members of the 1049th were greeted by Delaware Governor Jack Markell and senior leaders from the Delaware National Guard including Delaware Adjutant General, Maj. Gen. Francis D. Vavala.
Over approximately the next 14 days, Soldiers will sit through briefings on benefits and resources available to them including employment support, Veteran Affairs benefits, medical, dental and behavioral health resources, and administration and financial briefings. They will also undergo medical, dental, and behavioral health assessments.
Planning for demobilization starts well before units arrive at the demobilization station.
"We make contact with the unit 90 days out, and start identifying issues," said Command Sgt, Maj. James K. Herbert, 72nd FA Bde.'s command sergeant major. "This helps us address any issues up front."
Each unit's chain of command in theater provides information on the number of Soldiers involved in concussive events, the number and types of injuries Soldiers sustained while deployed and other information that allows Shrout, Herbert and the 72nd team to ensure they have enough providers on hand to assist the unit.
"The demob process is always improving," said Brig. Gen. Kendall Penn, First Army's deputy commanding general of operations. "The importance we place on the process is based on the importance of the rest of their lives."
A key piece of the demobilization process, according to Shrout and Herbert, revolves around involving the unit's chain of command. That includes having unit members on hand throughout the process.
"There are 10 Soldiers from the state of Delaware National Guard's chain of command here helping the Soldiers transition back into a civilian status, and the 1049th's chain of command is also present supporting the process," Herbert explained.
"It (demobilization) has gone from something being done to the unit to something the unit does," said Penn "About 93 percent of the unit makes it through the process within seven days."
Some Soldiers will require more time than others to complete the process. Soldiers with issues requiring follow on care will work with providers to determine their care pathway. This can include transfer into a Warrior Transition Unit; care through the Veteran's Administration system or with a civilian health care provider in their hometown.
"The pathways for care that are put in place will follow Soldiers back to their civilian lives," Penn said. "So when they do transition back to civilian life, they will make that transition more smoothly."
No Soldier will leave the demobilization site until all of his/her needs have been satisfactorily addressed and validated. During a validation board, Shrout and a team of medical and demobilization personnel look hard at each individual Soldier to ensure they have met demobilization requirements. Once all requirements are met and the unit has been validated, they are cleared to return home.
"I personally take the results of the review board to the states," said Shrout.
He explained that while active duty Soldiers stay around their leaders, Reserve Component Soldiers may see their chain of command only once a month. He said it is important that someone follows up on the Soldiers when they leave the demobilization site. He report the results of demobilization boards to the Senior Advisor Adjutant General for National Guard units and to the brigade-level commander for demobilizing Reserve units.
Shrout said that the command team always tries to go the extra mile in order to ensure the right people get the information they need for their Soldiers.
"We appreciate everything these soldiers have done on behalf of their nation. We appreciate the sacrifices their families have made, that their employers have all made," echoed Penn.
First Army Division East, headquartered at Fort Meade, Md., mobilizes trains, validates, deploys and demobilizes Reserve Component troops. The division demobilized almost 27,000 service members in support of overseas contingency operations, such as Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation New Dawn, at three mobilization training centers across the eastern United States in 2011.