Readjusting To Life Following Deployment

September 11, 2008

When Soldiers are deployed in a combat zone, they’re always on alert and ready for anything to happen in an instant. Depending on their job in theater, they may be involved with situations that are extremely stressful and that has them filled with adrenalin the majority of the time. When they return home, they’re often expected to just “flip a switch” and turn that off. For many, it’s not that easy to do. Once they’re home, they’re no longer carrying a weapon with them 24/7, they don’t have the risk of IEDs or mortars or RPGs. Everyone they meet isn’t a potential terrorist. Because of their experiences in the combat zone, sudden movements and loud noises startle them.

As of October 2007, a total of 186 soldiers had died in accidents within a year after returning from combat. Of those 186 Soldiers, 168 of them died within the first 6 months after they returned. The statistics are staggering. Sixty percent of the accident fatalities are sergeants or below. The overwhelming majority of the accidents involve high speed, alcohol or both.1

When they began seeing this pattern, the Army decided to do something to combat this, before even more Soldiers were lost in similar scenarios. Beginning this weekend, the Army is testing a new program designed to help these soldiers adjust from the high-paced, high-adrenaline combat environment to garrison or “home” life.2

The pilot program, called Operation Warrior Quest, will combine sports that are considered “high adventure sports,” such as skydiving, paintball, ropes courses, rock climbing, mountain biking, stock car racing, skiing, and others, with the Army’s Battlemind Training. The program is designed to help the Soldiers readjust to the calmer pace of life back in garrison or “at home.” The idea is that the high adventure sports will be a way to attract Soldiers to participate in the program, as well as serve as a release mechanism that will allow them to obtain the adrenalin rush they’re craving, yet at the same time, do so in a controlled environment.

In the Army’s Battlemind Training, which I’ve written about in the past, the idea is to teach Soldiers to be able to recognize and respond to fear in combat and learn how to deal with those things effectively so that they can easier reintegrate back into the home environment, once they redeploy home. The Army also offers Battlemind training for spouses and couples, so that spouses are more aware of what their Soldiers face in combat and are better able to recognize signs of stress when they return home.

The Warrior Adventure Quest program is being tested in three pilot programs, at Vicenza, Italy; Fort Lewis, Wash.; and Leesburg, Va., involving two active duty and one National Guard brigade combat teams. Over the next year, plans are in place to bring the program to 24 additional installations across the Army, within 90 days of their redeployment out of the combat zone and back to their home environment.

Officials will use survey and assessment tools to evaluate the program’s effectiveness, including statistics from the Combat Readiness/Safety Center, the Reintegration Unit Risk Inventory, the Unit Behavioral Health Needs Assessment, and a new online survey, the Warrior Adventure Quest User Survey.3

The Army’s hopes are to be able to cycle approximately 80,000 Soldiers through the program in the next year. Officials are hoping that this program will help to reduce the fatality rates. If it can reduce the numbers by 1/2 then the program has paid for itself. However, if the program is able to save the life of even one Soldier, that any monetary costs have been well worth it.

Dealing with Soldiers returning from combat every day, I feel that this program can be very helpful in allowing the Soldiers to still get that “adrenalin rush” that they’re craving while doing so in a controlled manner. Hopefully this will give them an alternative to seeking those things on their own, without the controls in place, that this program will allow. I’m excited to see how well this works for the Army and will be watching to see if I can find more information, as the program proceeds in the next year.

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4 Responses to “Readjusting To Life Following Deployment”

  1. David M on September 12th, 2008 9:23 am

    The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the - Web Reconnaissance for 09/12/2008 A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the day…so check back often.

  2. Roman General on September 16th, 2008 6:02 pm

    These programs are exactly what the soldiers need to combat the readjustment period to reintegrate back into society. Controlled high intense recreations along with training on how to identify triggers and anxiety before they overcome the soldier.

    I hope you don’t mind me linking this article to my blog, keep up the good work!

  3. Terri on September 16th, 2008 6:13 pm

    I don’t mind at all Roman. I’ve read some of your stuff over at A Soldier’s Perspective. I’m glad that CJ has you on board, to provide insight to the problems from the perspective of someone who’s been there. Thanks for your service and we hope you’ll stop by and visit here often.

  4. BurmyBrigade on October 15th, 2008 8:46 am

    I definately think this will help soldiers. I myself just returned from iraq in June, and without the combat adrenaline rush, it makes you go crazy. Soldiers need something to calm bring on the “RUSH”. you have to treat it like a drug and slowly ween the soldiers off of it. I myself used to be a very carefull driver, and came back and found myself speeding everywhere because it felt good. Went out and bought a motorcycle also, and i know its dangerous and when i ride i feel how vulnerable it is to be going so fast on it, but when i stop riding for the day i feel so relaxed and at peace.

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