By Mary Markos, USAG Grafenwoehr Public AffairsApril 14, 2008
VILSECK, Germany - For military families, the months following redeployment, or a Soldier's return home from Iraq, should be filled with love and laughter.
For too many, however, it is often marked with arguments, raised voices and spouses wondering how they can reconnect with their loved ones.
The Vilseck Army Community Service offers a monthly class for spouses and Soldiers that explains the communication issues and emotional challenges of reuniting and how these challenges can be overcome.
The Walter Reed Army Institute of Research Land Combat Study Team developed Battlemind Training after studying Soldiers and Marines who deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. The team observed common traits as the servicemembers reintegrated into life at home.
The traits presented challenges for both Soldiers and family members. The traits, which became the Battlemind acronym, are discussed in depth during training to help foster understanding and communication.
"The purpose of Battlemind is to educate both Soldiers and spouses about how their differing experiences during a deployment can be integrated with a smoother transition just by being aware," explained mobilizations and deployment specialist Nicole Heller.
"It is designed to give them a better understanding of how a deployment can affect both the spouse and the Soldier, and how we can make the reintegration process a more positive one," said Heller. "It really can help both Soldiers and spouses understand each other's point of view and some of what they go through during deployment."
The two-hour "Soldier" class is designed to help spouses better understand what a loved one may be feeling as they return home and during the six to nine months following redeployment.
Topics discussed include erratic behavior, a Soldier's desire to spend time away from home, and the guilt a Soldier may feel, as well as aggression and control.
A different "spouse" version of the training is offered to help servicemembers better understand how their absence impacted the family and what emotions their loved ones may feel as they become reacquainted.
"We feel it's important for family members and Soldiers to attend both versions of the training," Heller said. "While it's important to understand the 'why' behind your own experience, and how it relates to deployments, it's just as important to get a glimpse into the other side's experience so you can also understand the possible reactions and behavior you might encounter within your family."
Melissa White, whose husband returned home last October after being injured in Iraq, said the class helped her understand the "why" behind her husband's behavior.
"When they come back, you say this isn't the husband or the Soldier that left, he is not the same one now," said White. "With this class, you understand why he's not the same. You understand how you can actually make things better."
White did say, though, "making things better" does not have to wait until the Soldier returns from the battlefield.
"You don't know when your Soldier is coming back," she said. "If I would have known all of this prior to him coming back, our communication would be better and our marriage and friendship would be stronger. I would have known how to work with him and I would have known what he was going through. I could have been more understanding and compassionate."
For Suzanne Clark, the class is the missing link to understanding her husband, a member of the Warrior Transition Unit.
"The class is like another piece of the puzzle," said Clark. "I can put myself in his frame of mind now."
The Spouse Battlemind Training is available online at www.myarmylifetoo.com, but Heller said there are additional benefits of taking it in a classroom setting.
"Students relate to and share experiences with each other with such emotion that it's very hard not to come away from each class with a new understanding," she said.
For more information, visit the Battlemind Website at www.battlemind.org.