Transition program on Okinawa helps Marines adjust to life after deployment
November 8, 2004
CAMP COURTNEY, Okinawa — To help servicemembers who are returning from combat zones better adjust to “normal” life on Okinawa, the Marine Corps has started a mandatory briefing all personnel must attend within 60 days of returning to the island.
The Warrior Transition program is a joint effort between the III Marine Expeditionary Force chaplain’s office, Marine Corps Community Services and the 3rd Marine Division Surgeon’s office, according to Cmdr. Larry Greenslit, chaplain for 3rd Force Service Support Group. The program is designed to let Marines and sailors know what kind of help is available and where they can go to receive it.
The briefings are on the first Friday of each month at the Camp Courtney chapel, and the third Friday at the Camp Kinser chapel. All sessions are from 8 a.m. to noon.
Many Marines and sailors who return from combat zones are serving as “individual augmentees,” Greenslit said, and aren’t deployed with their unit. He said that can often have its own challenges as not only family members, but also co-workers don’t know what the individual went through and how they’re feeling.
“Our commitment to these Marines and sailors is to make sure they don’t fall through the cracks,” he said.
Not all returning troops will have problems readjusting, Greenslit said, but the briefing will keep them informed of all the help that’s out there in case they need it.
“In no way do we want to stigmatize or imply that they all have a problem,” he said. “This is not a critical intervention tool … it’s really designed as normative maintenance.”
Fellow chaplain Capt. Robert Crossan, 3rd Marine Division, said the “concern for the Marines and sailors doesn’t stop when they return. This is a quality of life issue. To make the personal and family life better is the ultimate outcome.”
“This is us taking care of our own,” Greenslit added.
During the briefings, the chaplains said they help the individuals tell their stories — where they have been and what it was like. They also ask the troops how they’re doing since their return, how the transition is going and what their future plans are. They want to hear both the positive and negative stories the returning troops have.
In addition to the chaplains, MCCS Counseling and Advocacy is helping those who are returning tell their stories. They are providing a brief on effective communication — how to communicate their experiences from war to peace, according to Beth Treon, Operational Readiness Support Program assistant for camps Foster and Courtney.
MCCS also covers what to expect from the return and reunion with family members, Treon said.
“We take them through the cycles of deployment — what changes the spouse will go through … the little things they may not think about,” Treon said. MCCS also discusses how children are affected and what returning to work may be like for the servicemember.
For those who may need additional help dealing with their feelings, Crossan said there are two psychiatrists available.
“They are ready to assist and provide intervention for anyone really stressed out, or for those that are having a tough time,” he said.
While trying to readjust to life outside the combat zone, Crossan said, troops could face such things as nightmares, flashbacks, insomnia, depression, anxiety or even substance abuse.
“These are all pitfalls that could hinder them,” Crossan said.
The briefings are for active-duty personnel only, but Treon said Marine Corps Family Team Building is currently designing a similar program for spouses to go through before their partner returns. For now, Greenslit said, they have designed a brochure for spouses to explain the briefing the servicemember went through.
For more information on the Warrior Transition program, call the chaplain’s office on Camp Courtney at 622-9284/5, or Camp Kinser at 637-3815.