By Spc. Noelle WieheJune 8, 2018
FORT STEWART, Ga. - The 3rd Infantry Division Sustainment Brigade held a redeployment town hall at the main post chapel on June 5.
The town hall was held to educate and introduce Families of almost 200 Soldiers scheduled to return from Afghanistan in July to resources available throughout the reintegration process.
Spouses and Family Members with and without prior deployment experience were introduced to resources available to them throughout the reintegration process, said Tonya Imes, Mobilization Deployment and Stability Support Operations program manager.
"As deployments go on, Families get used to living separate lives," Imes said. "When you return home, things have changed - the spouses live their lives, and things have gone on while the Soldier has lived their life for nine months in separate places."
Capt. Victoria Cashio, behavioral health officer with 3rd SB, said that Families operate as a unit or emotional system. Each person takes on a role and acts and reacts based on emotions and behaviors of others in the Family. When one member leaves, the system becomes unbalanced.
"The partner at home may take on new roles, create new schedules and develop new ways to function," Cashio said. "The Family at home adjusts to this new normal. When the redeployed Soldier returns, it upsets the balance again."
Sara Miller, spouse of Sgt. 1st Class Ben Navratil, 3rd ID SB, said the adjustments she had to make to fill the gaps in balancing the household were minor due to her experience as a single parent before her marriage to Navratil, but she didn't realize how much she'd miss just having her husband around.
"It's the things you take for granted when your significant other is there that I miss the most - things like him doing the yard work and TV shows I thought I hated that we'd only watch together."
The reunion between a Soldier and their Family is a time to reunite, but it is also an interruption and colliding of the two parties' daily lives, as they knew them, Imes said.
Miller said a void she did notice was the absence of her husband's boots by the doorway, which is one adjustment she will have to get used to all over again once he is home.
"I do not doubt that on day one I will be tripping over boots," Miller said smiling. "I've accepted that for the rest of my life I will be tripping over this man's shoes."
Organizations like the Army Community Services Mobility and Deployment team, ACS Financial Readiness, and Military Family Life Counselors are here to help Families during reintegration, Imes said.
"The main goal is to prevent negative things from happening and ensure that it is a successful reunion despite it being a stressful time," Imes said. "We just hope to ease that stress by setting some expectations and helping them develop a plan for themselves."
Through the reintegration process, Imes and the Army Community Service staff will continue to develop plans for the spouse and the Soldier upon their return.
"We (military spouses) developed a false reality during the nine months; so life is not what we expect when they return," Imes said. "We have developed these ideas in our head of what (the return) is going to look like, so when the Soldiers come home, and it's not what we expect, problems start to happen."
Marji Freeze, Community Ready and Resilient Integrator, said conflicts could result due to changes in financial situations or the relationship. She said her team and her want Soldiers and their Families to know that resources are available.
Whether the Soldier was gone for several months or longer, change is always possible, and with help from resources, reintegration can be seamless, Freeze said.
"Many people may be so focused on all the positive parts about the reunion, that they don't realize some of the challenges they may face," Cashio said. "(This training) provides everyone with information and resources that help manage expectations, normalize their feelings or experiences, and prepare or plan."
Jennifer Dudley, spouse of Staff Sgt. Warren Dudley, 3SB, said this is the fourth deployment she's experienced with her husband. She said she is happy to see the reintegration training push among the unit.
"I would love to see greater involvement with the spouses and greater involvement with the Soldiers who have been through a deployment," said Dudley. "This is the single most important meeting of the entire deployment."