Army launching new, standardized deployment support plan
ARLINGTON, Va. — The Army is launching a new program that standardizes redeployment support programs and makes it mandatory for commanders to offer all such programs to soldiers returning from conflicts and their families, officials said Wednesday.
The program will include training sessions and evaluations for soldiers both while they are deployed and once home, Brig. Gen. Steven Schook, director of the Army’s human resource policy directorate, told Pentagon reporters Wednesday.
Parallel programs will be offered to spouses and children through Family Readiness Groups at home, Schook said.
The program, called Deployment Cycle Support, includes some new elements, but mainly pulls together the best of existing efforts available at some installations or units but not at others, Schook said.
“It’s not that the Army doesn’t have [support] programs,” Schook said. “We have a lot of programs right now.”
The question, he said, is whether there might be “a better way to move these [programs] around at a time and place of our choosing.”
DCS comes in the wake of the Fort Bragg, N.C., killings last summer, in which four military wives were allegedly slain by soldiers, including three recently returned from Afghanistan.
But while “the tragedy that occurred at Fort Bragg obviously caught our interest,” it is only part of the reason Army leaders decided to design a standardized redeployment support package, Schook said.
The big picture, Schook said, is that the Army has almost 170,000 soldiers deployed to about 70 countries, and “we’re still at war. We know we may go somewhere else; we just don’t know where.”
Meanwhile, more than half of all soldiers are married, and Army families averaging 2.5 children, Schook said.
“Home life is more complex” for soldiers, he said.
While still in-theater, soldiers will receive redeployment support including medical screening to look for residual effects of their deployment; opportunities to talk about their combat experiences with counselors; and lectures on how to cope with changes that may have occurred in the family dynamic since they left.
At the same time, Family Readiness Groups will be offering a number of support programs for spouses. Participation will be voluntary, Schook said.
Once home, before units are allowed to take block leave, soldiers will undergo about 10 partial-duty days, to “create a transitional period” between the combat environment and their normal duty station, said Lt. Col. Charles Milliken, an Army psychiatrist.
A final touch is a toll-free hot line that will be staffed by civilian counselors. The hot line, which should be up and running by June, will be supplemented with the offer of up to six face-to-face counseling sessions.
Army officials designed the hot line to address the fear many soldiers and their families have that asking for mental health support will damage their career, Milliken said.