Communication, counseling preserve Family, unit ties
July 10, 2012
The 159th Combat Aviation Brigade has been home from deployment around 100 days, and the honeymoon is over.
Typically, the first 90 days following a deployment is known as the "honeymoon phase" of reintegration, explained Marianne Erdman, a representative of the Army Family Advocacy Program here.
For Soldiers and their Families, this time is often spent enjoying each other's company and basking in the newness of being reunited. After the 90 days, however, husbands and wives tend to face a breakdown in communication as they readjust to each other, their children, a garrison environment and the day-to-day responsibilities Soldiers often escape from while they are deployed, not to mention the inevitable changes that have occurred during their separation.
"Everyone is back together, and it's exciting," said. Col. Jimmy Blackmon, the 159th CAB commander. "Then reality sets in. Routines have altered, roles have changed, the children are a year older. Plus, for the past year, the Soldiers have only had to worry about themselves."
Blackmon said that once responsibilities come to bare, the atmosphere in the relationship starts to change.
"There's often an expectation that things will be the same," Erdman said. "They won't be."
Though many Soldiers and their Families are often frustrated with the seven-day reintegration process, Erdman explained that it's run that way by design.
"We want the Soldiers and Families to reintegrate slowly," she said. "Seven half-days of reintegration keeps everyone from having to adjust all at one time. It eases them back into the home environment."
As both parties come to the realization that things have changed, that both people have changed throughout the deployment, communication is the thread that can keep conflicts at home from escalating into uncontrollable situations.
"One of the biggest things I've seen is that people don't talk rationally," Blackmon said. "But you can't be selfish in a relationship."
Erdman suggests couples do something very simple to keep communication flowing. "Open your mouth and ask a question," she said. "And when you do, be where your feet are."
She explained that during conversations, one or both people often let their minds wander.
"You have start by thinking 'My feet are right here, and my attention is on you.'"
In addition to simply opening the dialogue, Erdman said there has to be a defined approach to resolving issues.
"You have to deal with one thing at a time -- one issue, one opportunity at a time," Erdman said. "Slow down."
Trying to tackle all of the change and unresolved issues at once is one of the biggest ways situations can become violent, and once an argument at home becomes physical, trust is broken. It's not just the trust between Family members that is affected though; it's also the trust within a unit.
"Domestic violence at home has a significant impact on a unit," Blackmon said. "The health of an organization is dependent on trust."
There's a tight circle that builds and maintains this trust, and though domestic violence occurs in the home, a critical part of the prevention occurs at the unit.
"There's more to leading than the job," Blackmon said. "Team leaders need to be talking to their Soldiers; they need to be doing goal-oriented counseling and talking about these kinds of things. Soldiers might not think it's any of their leaders' business, but it is their business -- it affects other people's lives."
Along with one-on-one counseling with the Soldiers, leaders can also take advantage of AFAP to prevent domestic violence. Each unit on Fort Campbell has a designated representative at AFAP who can offer unit training. They even offer training specifically for NCOs geared toward helping them identify at-risk Soldiers and to mitigate violence in the homes of their Soldiers.
Soldiers can also take initiative to contact AFAP on their own to tackle issues before they escalate.
"It takes a lot of integrity to say 'I need some help,'" Erdman said.