VICENZA, Italy — The 22nd Area Support Group is adding a few twists to a series of sessions for spouses whose loved ones will soon return from duty in Iraq.

Instead of just presenting serious information about how deployed soldiers may need help readjusting to life outside of Iraq, organizers have tried to attract participants with several not-so-serious topics, such as tips on travel and cooking and some practice with aromatherapy.

There’s also free child care ... and chocolate.

“That’s the look we went for, because we don’t know how many people would show up to a normal [briefing],” said Annette Evans, family support division officer for the 22nd ASG, which covers northern Italy.

So spouses and significant others will hear information on some possible trips they might want to take — with and without the children — when their servicemembers return and immediately go on extended leave. Evans said a range of prices and itineraries will be discussed.

A chef will demonstrate a few dishes that soldiers — used to eating from Meals, Ready to Eat and chow halls for months — might look forward to.

Participants can pair up with each other while getting a few tips on massages.

In the meantime, the base’s child development center will offer free child care for those attending the sessions, dubbed Heartfelt Thanks. Evans said attendance isn’t mandatory, but encouraged. And people can attend multiple times, even if they’re mainly hoping to get a few hours of help with their children and load up on calories at the dessert bar.

“If that’s what they need, to take a break, that’s fine,” Evans said. But she adds that attending the sessions at least twice might do some good.

That’s because though the four-hour sessions — beginning Saturday and also set for Feb. 4, 11 and 23 — will be largely the same, there’s going to be a lot of information presented. And those who want to break away and ask individual questions will have the opportunity to do so.

Maj. Gen. Thomas Turner, commander of the Southern European Task Force (Airborne), and Col. Donald Drummer, the ASG commander, will do some of the presenting themselves.

Other experts will talk about issues such as the timetable of the soldiers’ return, health, safety and domestic violence.

“All about how we watch out for each other,” Evans said.

All the information is also available at the Army Community Service center on base, which is staffed around the clock.

She said everything presented could be tied in some way into families reuniting after an often-stressful long deployment.

Well, everything but the chocolate and dessert bar.

Evans says that after hearing a lot of information that will be good for them, participants might want to take in “everything that’s not so good for you.”

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Kent has filled numerous roles at Stars and Stripes including: copy editor, news editor, desk editor, reporter/photographer, web editor and overseas sports editor. Based at Aviano Air Base, Italy, he’s been TDY to countries such as Afghanistan Iraq, Kosovo and Bosnia. Born in California, he’s a 1988 graduate of Humboldt State University and has been a journalist for almost 38 years.

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