Demobilization Process prepares National Guard Soldiers to transition back to civilian lives
August 1, 2012
FORT MEADE, Md. -- Before heading home after an eight-month deployment to Afghanistan and Kuwait more than 2,800 Ohio and Michigan National Guard Soldiers, must successfully tackle one more mission: demobilization.
Beginning at the end of July, Soldiers assigned to the 37th Infantry Brigade Combat Team began flowing through Camp Shelby Joint Forces Training Center, Miss. While at Camp Shelby, they will address and resolve any medical, behavioral health, administrative and financial issues.
"This is an important effort, and we are committed to taking care of every Soldier as they transition back home," explained Maj. Gen. Kevin Wendel, First Army Division East Commander. First Army has the responsibility of overseeing the demobilization process for all redeploying Reserve Component Soldiers.
"This is the last opportunity for our Soldiers to identify any potential issues they may have encountered while mobilized," agreed Col. James Perry, 37th IBCT commander. "These issues can range from financial, administrative records, awards, their issued equipment, and/or medical and dental. While some of these issues can be taken care of once the Soldiers return to their reserve status and at home station, it is much easier to take care of any problems while they are still at the demobilization station, as they are fully resourced to handle such issues."
First Army Division East tailors the demobilization process for each unit based on downrange/theater feedback and began engaging the 37th IBCT's leaders several months ago to ensure everyone understood requirements to properly prepare for and resource specific issues and needs. The demobilization process provides 10 to 14-days for Focused Soldier Care; however, individual Soldiers will be afforded whatever time necessary to successfully complete the demobilization process.
"While Soldiers are anxious to return home as quickly as possible, it is absolutely essential they fully understand their benefits, get dedicated access to health care if they need it, and are aware of the employment and education opportunities beyond serving their nation overseas," said Wendel. "They have done a tremendous job downrange; they deserve every opportunity to receive the benefits they have so honorably earned."
Soldiers do not leave Camp Shelby until their needs have been satisfactorily addressed and validated explained Col. Dale Kuehl, 177th Armored Brigade, First Army Division East, commander. Kuehl, who oversees the requirements-based demobilization process at Camp Shelby, emphasized the whole process is a team effort between State leadership all partners but most especially, the demobilizing unit.
"Much like we reset our equipment after a mobilization in preparation for future missions, we must do the same for our Soldiers within our organization," said Perry. "The demobilization process is a critical step of this process. As always, our Soldiers are still our most valued war fighting component. We must take care of them after each deployment, to ensure they are fully mission capable for their families, employers, community, as well as for the Army."
Throughout the process, Soldiers receive individualized attention, appropriate medical and other transition support assistance. The Soldier's chain of command remains involved every step of the way, helping the Soldier make informed decisions either to stay on active duty for additional medical care, or return home and receive that care from hometown providers, explained Kuehl.
Perry acknowledged families may be impatient for their Soldiers to come home quickly but urge them to allow time for the Soldiers to focus on resolving issues.
"Demobilization is the time for each Soldier to address any issues that may have surfaced while on the deployment, regardless of what it is. Soldiers are eager to get home, but the demob process can't be rushed," explained Perry. "We repeatedly remind our Soldiers to take full advantage of the services provided, and that this is just one more 'mission' that must be successfully accomplished along the way of a successful deployment. Our Soldiers and their families have been separated for a long time, and now it the time for everyone to perform at their best and end on a high note, before returning home."
The States, Army Medical Command and Camp Shelby's Medical Team coordinate provider support and specialty care not available at Camp Shelby with medical assets from the local community. Representatives from the Department of Veterans Affairs, Employer Support to the Guard and Reserve Program, and many others are available and assist in the process.
"Sometimes the medical process takes a bit longer if Soldiers require more support or specialized care," said Lt. Col. George Kyle, First Army Division East surgeon. "The goal is for every Soldier and their unit chain of command to know and understand their medical needs and how to access care."
"We are fully engaged in making arrangements with the right medical providers and specialists so we can return these Soldiers to grateful families and communities. We do not rush the process; it is too important," said Kyle.
This is the second deployment for Sgt. 1st Class Tracy Anderson, a native of Massillon, Ohio. Anderson, who hopes to make it home in time for the first day of school for her children, appreciates the lengths First Army and Camp Shelby go to ensure a successful demobilization.
"The demob process is extremely thorough, and it needs to be," she stressed. "Between the Mobilization and Demobilization from my first deployment out of Fort Lee, Va., to now there have been many positive changes. Camp Shelby people are positive, and they smile. They have a great attitude, and they know that we are just trying to get home. They are here for us, and we appreciate it so much."
In addition to medical, dental and behavioral health support, Soldiers receive information and resources on benefits, programs, and access to care to assist them as they transition back home. This includes TRICARE, Veteran's Health Administration information and assistance, employment information and resources and administrative and financial assistance. Soldiers who wish to apply for benefits and jobs can do so with assistance from representatives on-site.
For the last nine months, the 37th IBCT partnered with the Afghan National Police, providing security force assistance. Perry said he considered the deployment successful and the training First Army provided greatly benefited them in theater by honing their skills and discipline as well as building more cohesive teams at the battalion and brigade levels.
"The mobilization training that the 37th IBCT received from First Army validated individual readiness. It provided valuable repetitions for our teams and platoons. It allowed us an opportunity to integrate the security force assistance team concept into our brigade. The training provided valuable team building and an assessment of ourselves and capabilities. It allowed us to work through different scenarios that we could have faced in a safe environment and make any necessary changes to our organization prior to the deployment," he concluded.