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Saturday, July 22, 2006

Advice for OEF/OIF Vet Employers and Co-Workers

The Minneaplis-St. Paul Star Tribune and the Minnesota National Guard are doing a great job in both educating their local communities on returning veteran issues and ensuring their troops have as successful of a reintegration as possible. Read their solid advice for employers and co-workers.

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

From the Star Tribune:

For a veteran, there is no such thing as coming back to the same job he or she left, according to Maj. John Morris, deputy state chaplain for the Minnesota Army National Guard. There is no company on the planet that can really let any job go undone for two years -- and even if it could, no job would freeze unchanged over that time, Morris said.

The flip side is that no veteran is the same when coming back to a job from combat areas such as Iraq and Afghanistan, he said. The changes spread wide across not only the soldiers' personal and family lives, but also their work lives.

Morris is conducting a 'webinar' course on Tuesday sponsored by the Employee Assistance Professionals Association of Arlington, Va. This group provides counseling services for many companies to their employees.

Besides the small percentage of post-traumatic stress disorder, Morris said, there are less dramatic but more common "residuals," including hyper-vigilance, sensitivity to loud noises, fear of crowds, and a combat-zone version of defensive driving that can be unnerving.

Some veterans find themselves simultaneously bored and overwhelmed by the jobs they come back to, Morris said. Some young veterans have burned through four or five jobs in six months, sometimes complaining that the boss is dumb and sometimes complaining that the boss thinks they're dumb. Nothing can compare to the thrill and the test of combat.

Morris' advice to employers is to start preparing before the veterans come to work. When soldiers are returning to the workplaces they left, they will come with a reservoir of trust if an employer has made an effort to stay in touch with the solider and the family left behind. That's the kind of employer they'll feel comfortable asking for help, he said.

On arrival, start things off with an official welcome back -- not a grand event, "but let's not act like it's no big deal," he said. Then some mutual understanding during the period of adjustment goes a long way.

Co-workers should brace for a strong indifference from veterans, Morris said, an attitude along the lines of, "I've been at the center of world events, and everything I've been doing is more important than what you've been doing."

On their side, co-workers can stop asking the kind of troubling questions veterans now get. "You do not want to ask, 'Did you kill anybody?' " Morris said. "Or, sometimes people ask, 'Do you think we should be there? Do you think we're winning?' Then they use that to go into their own politics, and that is not appreciated."

Instead, Morris suggests showing interest with open-ended questions, so veterans can go only as far as they're comfortable, questions such as:
  • What was your experience like?
  • How was it coming home?
  • What would you like to share about your time in Iraq?
  • Got any pictures you want to show us?
Employers often are in a good position to spot problem signs -- withdrawn or too kinetic -- and steer the veterans to help, he said. Morris suggests weekly check-ins for a while, for encouragement or intervention.

Some honest advice. Please thank the MSP Star Tribune for their great coverage on this issue.

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