Fort Hood Reset Program Teaches Soldiers To Leave ‘Battle Mind’ Behind

March 25, 2009

When someone is in a stressful situation, one of the body’s natural response to stress, fright, or danger, is what is called the fight or flight response. This is a very natural and inborn reaction to stressful situations that we all experience when we’re in stressful situations. It is our body’s primitive, automatic, inborn response that prepares the body to “fight” or “flee” from perceived attack, harm or threat to our survival.1

When our fight or flight response is activated, sequences of nerve cell firing occur and chemicals like adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol are released into our bloodstream. These patterns of nerve cell firing and chemical release cause our body to undergo a series of very dramatic changes. Our respiratory rate increases. Blood is shunted away from our digestive tract and directed into our muscles and limbs, which require extra energy and fuel for running and fighting. Our pupils dilate. Our awareness intensifies. Our sight sharpens. Our impulses quicken. Our perception of pain diminishes. Our immune system mobilizes with increased activation. We become prepared—physically and psychologically—for fight or flight. We scan and search our environment, “looking for the enemy.2

When in deployed to a combat zone, our Troops experience this ‘fight or flight state’, due to the situation they’re in, they remain in that hypervigilant state for the entire time they’re deployed and many times after they return home. It becomes second nature to them to be in that constant hypervigilant state and it’s often difficult for them to just turn that switch, if you will and return to their normal state, before they were deployed. Some struggle with that and some never learn how to turn that switch. That often creates difficulties for our Troops, when they return home, away from the combat zone and with their families. Often family members don’t understand, why their Soldier appears to always be on edge, jumpy and not themselves. That’s where Battle Mind Training comes into play, both for the Troops and for their Family Members.

Recoginzing that it’s very difficult for Troops to turn off that ‘hypervigilance’ and relax and get back into the routine of everyday living outside the combat zone, the Carl Darnall Army Medical Center at Fort Hood has created what they call the Warrior Combat Stress Reset Program, to help teach Soldiers how to leave behind the “Battle Mind” and return to the “Peacetime” state of mind. The program at Fort Hood is designed to help reduce the hyper-arousal symptoms and inappropriate reactions to normal everyday events.

“We use a variety of body and mind healing techniques along with group and individual counseling,” said Oregon native Maj. Lynette Heppner, officer-in-charge of the reset program. The two-week program is for Soldiers struggling to adjust to being home. “Soldiers do not need to be diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder to attend the program,” Heppner said. “The name of the clinic is really fitting, warrior combat stress,”3

The program at Fort Hood lasts for two weeks and is designed to help Soldiers ‘reset’ and help them heal from traumas that they may have experienced during their time in the combat zone. By providing the Soldiers with the right tools to help them begin the emotional healing process, Soldier’s are learning to cope with those feelings and learning to relax and get back to their normal existence at home. Being able to do so, becomes more difficult for the Soldiers as they are sent on repeated deployments. Events have occurred that are painful for them and thus talking about them or dealing with the feelings are difficult as well and are often buried deep inside.

“We have powerful tools to help with adjusting, resetting, and with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Yes, service members are scared but they are not disabled,” said Dr. Jerry Wesch, a clinical psychologist from Nebraska. Before enrolling in the reset program, Soldiers are screened and later scheduled for the next available two-week session.4

The sessions are open to all Soldiers both officers and enlisted personnel. The sessions are held from Monday through Friday from 7:30 am to 4:30 pm for two weeks. It’s important that if Soldiers enroll in the program, that they are personally committed to following through. They must also provide a consent form from their chain of command, to attend the sessions.

So far, the feedback from those who have attended has been positive. It’s great that such a program is available to the Troops at Fort Hood, the largest military installation. Staff members and Soldiers who have attended the program, stress that for a Soldier to seek help, is a definate sign of strength. A sign that they’re ready to leave the ‘battle mind’ behind and return to a sense of normalcy in their lives.

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