By Mr. Jason L Austin (IMCOM)March 25, 2009
HEIDELBERG, Germany -- After 27 years in the Army without a combat deployment, Peter Buttner, station manager at the Heidelberg American Red Cross station, has deployed three times with the Red Cross as a Services to the Armed Forces team member.
Currently on his third deployment, Buttner leads a four-person SAF team in Tikrit, Iraq, which will provide emergency communication needs for Soldiers as well as help boost morale in their area of operations.
"The challenge will be creating a positive image for others to see that (the Services to the Armed Forces of the American Red Cross) are here with them and to help them in any way we can, be it making fresh bread to lift their spirits or keeping families informed to prepare, respond and prevent emergency situations that can cause undue stress on the service members and their families," Buttner wrote in an e-mail from Kuwait.
Buttner and his team, "4:18 to Tikrit," were stranded in Kuwait for a time while awaiting transport into theater. The delay was just one more stop on their three-week journey to Tikrit via Washington and Fort Benning, Ga.
"The toughest part of SAF deployments are getting there and getting back," Buttner said in a blog on myBWnow, the U.S. Army Garrison Baden-WAfA1/4rttemberg virtual community.
The time wasn't wasted, he wrote. "These past days have allowed us to get over the jet lag and acclimate to the weather. It still takes some time getting use to all the dust in the air."
For Buttner, who retired as a chief warrant officer 2, deployments have become a part of life over the past six years, like it has been for many of the Soldiers he supports.
When he retired, Buttner became a volunteer at the Fort Bragg, N.C., Red Cross office, and was also a volunteer in the Reserve Corps, he said.
Since then the Red Cross has deployed the Wisconsin native to Lajes Field in the Azores, Baghdad and Kuwait, and Buttner has been a staff member at the Fort Bragg, N.C., Ramstein and Heidelberg stations.
"Deployments are a part of the job," Buttner said. "I signed up to deploy anywhere in the world."
For the next four months, anywhere in the world means Tikrit for Buttner and his team.
He said his plans are to hit the gym hard and ensure his team functions well together.
One of his Heidelberg team members, Rainer Neuhauser, field office coordinator, said Buttner will have no problem leading the 4:18 Tikrit team.
"He's a really good manager," Neuhauser said. "He has the leadership skills to lead a team downrange."
The team will provide the Soldiers the support they need while deployed.
Part of that support is emergency communications - where Red Cross staff verify emergency situations that involve the family member of a Soldier and generate a Red Cross message for that Soldier's command.
Red Cross messages allow "the American people to communicate with their family members serving in the Armed Forces," according to the American Red Cross Web site. Buttner described the process of generating a Red Cross message as a way to independently verify emergency situations, which may require the presence of the service member. The process involves interviewing the service member, his family, doctors and others to ensure all resources have been exhausted.
The team then relays the message to the Soldier's command team and offers any assistance they can provide to the Soldier.
"Military leaders rely on the American Red Cross to provide objective, timely, confidential, factual, complete and verified information on emergency family situations," the Web site read.
Neuhauser said last time he was deployed, the Red Cross members were called "angels of death," because they are so often the bearers of bad news.
But, he said Buttner has worked to change that image in Heidelberg.
"Peter is the face of the Red Cross in Heidelberg," he said.
One of the ways Buttner has worked to change that image is through community outreach. Neuhauser said Buttner came up with the idea of handing out blankets and coffee at the Cancer Awareness Laps for Life event held in September.
It's more than emergency case management, Neuhauser said. "We're here to help."
Buttner, on his way to Tikrit, sought out opportunities to share the Red Cross mission with Soldiers he met.
"I spoke with a few Soldiers here in Kuwait who asked us about what we do," Buttner wrote in his blog, "and they were grateful for our services in the time of need. One Soldier who had been evacuated to (Landstuhl Regional Medical Center) for having a gallbladder removed stated his experience for the whole event was very positive. The SAF teams are getting the message through and taking care of both the service member and their families so they can focus on what's important."
For Buttner that means caring for people, whether that's giving a ride to someone in the garrison or deploying downrange.
"My military experience played an important part of getting a job with the American Red Cross," Buttner wrote in an e-mail. "(The) 'serve those who have served with me' attitude has taken me on a whole new adventure around the world."
(Editor's Note: Jason Austin writes for the USAG Baden-Wuerttemberg newspaper, the Herald Post.)