Program could help augmentees adjust after deployments
ARLINGTON, Va. — The Navy is conducting a pilot program later this month designed to help prevent individual augmentees from having problems after returning from deployments, Navy officials said.
Individual augmentees deploy as individuals or ad hoc units to supplement other services, typically the Army.
The Navy concluded it needs to check in with individual augmentees between three and six months after they come home to see if they are having any issues from their deployments, said Capt. Lewin Wright, director of the Navy’s Comprehensive Casualty Care Working Group.
The first sailors to go through the program will be from an ad hoc battalion of augmentees who returned home in August after guarding detainees for 12 months in Iraq, a recent Navy-wide message said.
“Detainee operations is a mentally and physically draining mission which has a unique set of stresses,” the message said. “The level of violence and number of riots witnessed by members of this battalion were extremely high. Additionally, [Navy Provisional Detainee Battalion] Two was involuntarily extended for 90 days in country.”
The program is meant to help the sailors in the battalion deal with and prevent post-traumatic stress disorder, anger management issues, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, domestic violence, sleeping disorders and suicides, the message said.
About 150 of the 423 sailors from the battalion are expected to attend the pilot program along with their families and command master chiefs from the sailors’ parent commands, said Cmdr. Kathryn Donovan, the battalion’s former commander.
During the deployment, the sailors — including some from Italy and one from Japan — were taken out of their normal ratings, put into a facility with 20,000 detainees and had to deal with detainee riots and rocket and mortar attacks, Donovan said.
The toughest part of the deployment came during the “surge” when the battalion was extended, Donovan said.
The “surge” brought an increase in detainees and the need for more guards, and the battalion was used as a stop-gap measure until more guards arrived, she said.
News of the extension came when the sailors had 60 days left on their deployment, Donovan said.
“And then to think I have five more months of this, that was very difficult to process,” she said.
And when the sailors returned to their parent commands, they didn’t have anyone who has been through the same experience with whom they can talk, Donovan said.
Donovan said that she knew while the unit was in Kuwait at the end of its deployment that the Navy would have to check up with the sailors after they got back home.
“To see the level of violence we did, to be out of your rate, to be extended — to not be impacted by that would be unrealistic,” she said.