Army program aims to lower soldier deaths, injuries after war deployment
SEOUL, South Korea — A new Army-wide program is meant to help family members keep soldiers from making fatal mistakes after they come home from Iraq and Afghanistan, according to leaders at the U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center in Alabama.
The program — the Family Engagement Kit — aims to lower the number of injuries and deaths among returning soldiers, according to Command Sgt. Maj. Tod L. Glidewell, of the Army’s Combat Readiness Center.
“Families can help,” Glidewell said during a recent phone interview. “Families have a powerful influence on soldiers’ lives.”
Last year, 186 soldiers died within 12 months of returning from deployments, according to Glidewell. About two-thirds of those deaths happened within the first six months of returning. Most of the incidents involved privately owned vehicles and occurred during off-duty hours, Glidewell said.
“As a soldier comes back to life in garrison, it’s a very turbulent time,” Glidewell said.
Combat assignments are packed with adrenaline, he said, but they also restrict behavior. When soldiers get home, their unit leadership can change because of routine rotations and training schedules. At the same time, the freedom of being home can be a temptation that leads to risky decisions.
The engagement kit includes six “tools” meant to help soldiers and their families think through decisions about long-distance trips, riding of motorcycles or all-terrain vehicles, and alcohol consumption.
The kit also reminds families to watch for over-exertion during exercise and signs of post-traumatic stress disorder.
The kits are available through Family Readiness Groups at bases worldwide, Glidewell said.