Team helps U.S. troops deal with combat-related stress
CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait — It doesn’t take a tough soldier to accept the death of a comrade or understand why an innocent child died, but it does take a strong soldier to understand that painful feelings are natural.
Combat stress, triggered by battle fatigue, combat deaths and injuries, and even home front problems, can creep into the minds of the best of troops and take them down.
According to Air Force Maj. Anthony Hassan, a social worker with a four-man combat stress control and prevention team that just finished a four-month rotation throughout Army camps in northern Kuwait, sometimes all a war fighter needs is someone to listen.
“It’s amazing what happens when you get a group together and talk about what happened during an ambush, what their buddies did. It releases it and it dispels rumors,” Hassan said. “It helps them to support each other and develops cohesion.”
Through mental health care and brief interventions in theater, troops who are upset, lash out or just can’t take it anymore are taught how to cope with anxiety in a combat situation.
The team, based out of McDill Air Force Base, Tampa, Fla., includes a commander, a social worker and two support technicians.
“If you saw one of us, you knew the others were around. We went in together, as a team, and people saw that and actually approached us,” Hassan said. He said living with the troops made them more accessible to war-weary fighters.
The main mission of the team is prevention, which is done by teaching from the top down, according to Hassan.
“The senior leaders received daily consultation and training on Iraqi war-specific topics to help leaders take care of their own,” Hassan said.
Technicians would provide counseling and coping methods such as stress management techniques, according to Tech. Sgt. Theadore Kraszka, one of the technicians.
The combat stress control and prevention team is a joint venture between the Army and Air Force and is being done for the first time. This method of keeping troops battle ready during the conflict was first developed after the Persian Gulf War. Hassan said about 90 percent of troops are receptive to the short-term counseling and are well enough to go back out and fight.
The mobile Air Force teams, as well as Army and Navy doctors, remain posted throughout operation areas to care for troops who need to be heard.