PTSD Combat is no longer being updated.

Find Ilona blogging at Magyar Etimológia and Etymartist.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Cloquet, MN: Troop Reintegration Program Update, Advice

An update and some advice from a Minnesota small town which came together in February to begin the work of offering 120 of their returning soldiers from the Duluth Guard unit a ground-breaking reintegration program. [See the following posts to get up to speed on this incredible story: 1 | 2] The first wave of troops have now gone through the Minnesota National Guard's program, and the Pioneer Press provides an update. Closing things out: advice by the program's director on how to improve your own community's support of its returning troops.

Click on 'Article Link' below tags for more...

From the Pioneer Press:

The 120 soldiers with the Cloquet-based E-Battery of the 216th Air Defense Artillery, of which Madrinich is a member, are among the first in the state to complete the Minnesota National Guard's pioneering program to ease the transition from war to home.

Since they returned, soldiers and family members have met every 30 days for briefings on military benefits and how to maintain mental health. Most local soldiers who have returned from an overseas deployment are able to transition smoothly into civilian life.

For a few, joy gives way to anxiety. "At first they are so glad to be back, they don't think they have any problems. And 98 percent of them don't," said Lt. Col. Susan Whiteaker, a member of the Army Reserves Combat Stress Team. "After two weeks to six months, though, things start to hit them."

Military experts estimate that 7 percent to 30 percent of returning soldiers will have trouble readjusting to civilian life.

We all know that hearing or reading something once is never enough to get you to change your habits. It's better to revisit a topic more than once -- only then will you have a good chance of incorporating that knowledge into your daily routines. That's the beauty of these types of reintegration programs. Teach positive skills early-on, and keep the negative ones from cropping up.

During a mid-March reintegration session at the Cloquet Armory, about 60 days after the unit's return, Whiteaker talked about anger management. Soldiers in the audience were busy whispering back and forth among themselves. "Hello. Can I have your attention, please?" Whiteaker's shouts echoed in the armory. "This is important. I may not be important, but this information is important to you."

Most soldiers quickly become so used to the chronic stress of a battlefield that they can go on working through just about anything, even, as Madrinich knows, if car bombs are exploding nearby. The military wants and needs soldiers to ignore that kind of stress and to use their anger as a fuel to fight the enemy, Whiteaker said. "But this is not a good adaptation when you come home again," Whiteaker said.

She offered tips and techniques to deal with overwhelming anger, from deep breathing to meditation. "It's hard to get this information across, but it's not impossible," said Maj. Cindy Rassmusen, also a member of the combat stress team. "People need to hear this more than once. Each person will pick out what's important to them," she said.

As the community began ratcheting up its program, Cloquet's Pine Journal pitched in by running an incredibly informative 4-part public awareness series starting in February. They are well worth taking a look at if your local community is interested in basing a reintegration program on their model:

Are you considering starting up a supportive reintegration program in your own community? If so, you might find the following advice (culled from the third article above) of great help:

Community Advice for Supporting Troop Reintegration

The process of readjusting to civilian life for returning combat soldiers is basically an eight-part process, according to National Guard Chaplain John Morris. Morris told community members at a special seminar at the National Guard Armory in Cloquet recently that the way ahead for returning soldiers must include: awareness, acceptance, education, healing and forgiveness, joining the community, growth, productive living and contributing to others. ...

[In Minnesota,] Guard units returning from combat now receive two days of initial reintegration training immediately following their return home. The unit is then reassembled after 30 days for reassessment and again after 60 days to address such issues as anger management, gambling, dealing with law enforcement issues and other situations that may be a reaction to combat stress.

Ninety days after their return, the soldiers are reassembled once again for a thorough physical and mental health assessment. Morris said the state believes it is imperative to remain vigilant in assessing how the soldiers are doing on both the short- and long-term aftermath.

Further, he said soldiers must learn what triggers their fears and how to adapt, even if they can’t get over the combat stress they might be experiencing. That, he said, requires the help and support of the entire community, and he offered some specific suggestions for various community members regarding how they can best contribute.

Law Enforcement
“Don’t lie to me when I get in trouble,” he stated. “Don’t tell me it will be all right. And don’t talk down to me. Instead, we need to work through things together. You might be able to identify me as a combat vet because chances are, I am going to talk tersely. If that is the case, call me by my last name [as they do in the military] and that will help diffuse the situation. “I need clear and defined guidance from you.”

Social Service Providers
“Don’t feel you have to ‘fix’ us. You don’t have to handle our problems alone. You already have training in dealing with trauma, so try to treat us with respect no matter what we may be going through and validate what we perceive ‘normal’ people should be like.”

[T]here is one thing that is key in getting returning combat soldiers “back into the fold” of the church. “If you tracked with my family while I was gone, I will give the church a great deal of respect. If not, you will not see me again. Also, before announcing my return in church, ask me first if I’m feeling confident enough to deal with it. Otherwise, let me keep a low profile. Create a safe place for me and offer me hope of forgiveness, and please don’t talk about the politics of war.”

[Consider offering] on-the-job sensitivity training for fellow employees of the returning soldier to help rebuild the bond of trust. “Remember we are severely handicapped by what we’ve missed while we were gone,” he said, “and help us pole vault that18 months.”

“Be sympathetic when you hear my story, but don’t buy me another drink. Instead, start slowing me down. What I really need is a ride home.”

Applause, again, for this program!

Please send your thanks to the Pioneer Press for their coverage of this issue. Also, consider emailing the Pine Journal a quick thank you, too; being a small paper, they'll probably really appreciate hearing that their efforts are being recognized. Perhaps consider contacting your local officials to ask if your community has any plans to organize something like this, too (especially if you live near a base).

 Related Posts

Blog Widget by LinkWithin
Want to stay connected? You can subscribe to PTSD Combat via Feedburner or follow Ilona on Twitter.
Later/Newer Posts Previous/Older Posts Return Home

2011: Jan Feb
2010: Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec
2009: Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec
2008: Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec
2007: Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec
2006: Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec
2005: Sept Oct Nov Dec

Legal Notice

The information presented on this web site is based on news reports, medical and government documents, and personal analysis. It does NOT represent therapeutic prescription or recommendation. For specific advice and information, consult your health care provider.

Comments at PTSD Combat do not necessarily represent the editor's views. Illegal or inappropriate material will be removed when brought to our attention. The existence of such does not reflect an endorsement.

This site contains at times large portions of copyrighted material not specifically authorized by the copyright owner. This material is used for educational purposes, to forward understanding of issues that concern veterans and military families. In accordance with U.S. Copyright Law Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit. More information.