by Cpl. Jess Kent
Army News Service, March 28, 2007
Just as there are ways to combat enemy forces, there are ways to combat the emotional upheaval troops endure when handling homefront problems in a war zone.
Common homefront problems are related to relationships or worries about infidelity, financial stress, legal concerns and discipline for children. When a servicemember feels pressured or needs someone to talk to, there are many options, ranging from talking to peers or supervisors to confiding in the unit chaplain or nearest combat stress control team.
"The two most common issues I have helped Soldiers deal with while deployed are relationship problems with either a spouse or significant other or financial issues," said Maj. Collie Foster, chaplain, 67th Theater Signal Battalion. "Chaplains can provide a shoulder to lean on when pressures get too great and can turn the Soldier toward God, who is there to make our burdens lighter."
When troops carry a large emotional burden, the inability to sleep may be just one symptom. When someone is not well rested, it can be hard for them to focus on the mission.
"The Soldier is bombarded with the dangers of combat; therefore, they become overly sensitive," Foster said. "When issues from home surface, the stress they are currently under may cause even the smallest issue at home to look larger than it really is."
If this is the case, there are three ways to classify and evaluate a problem: physical, mental and emotional. There are resources to turn to for each category.
"Since a human being is made up of body, soul and spirit, a person can turn to medical personnel to deal with the physical aspect of stress, mental health personnel to deal with the emotional aspect and a chaplain to deal with the spiritual," Foster said.
If a servicemember seeks assistance from a combat stress control team, there is an open door policy, said Col. Emile Risby, mental health consultant, 3rd Medical Command.
"The first thing to do is sit down and get the facts," he said. "Clarify what can or can't be done, and decide whether or not things can be resolved here in theater or if it needs to wait until the Soldier returns home."
After helping troops evaluate their problems, mental-health advisors devise a treatment plan to help get them on the right track.
"We look at the different strategies to help a Soldier cope while in theater," Risby said. "This can be anger management, stress-reduction techniques, education in life skills and emotional symptoms, or a cognitive-based program. The big key is to prevent Soldiers from isolating and shutting down."
When dealing with deployed troops who have homefront problems, mental-health consultants encourage the development of social supports found in theater: buddies, supervisors, chaplains and combat-stress control teams.
"Theater-wide, combat-stress control teams see about 700 new cases of combat-stress reactions a month, and a significant portion of those have homefront problems," Risby said. "If a Soldier is distracted by what's going on at home, he's not going to be mission-focused. Homefront problems do affect mission readiness."
To prevent this from happening, combat-stress teams are in theater for the troops.
"Seeking help is the right thing to do, and it's not a career buster," he said. "Also, if a Soldier seeks help from combat stress teams, he can do so anonymously. Commanders are notified if there's a safety concern, if the Soldier requests that the command be notified, or if the Soldier stays for two to three days of counseling at a combat stress fitness center."
Informational articles and contact information are available at www.combatstresscenter.com.
(Cpl. Jess Kent writes for the 28th Public Affairs Detachment.)