Postcards from Tradocia

welcome back tuav

Early this week a small group (one platoon) of Minnesota soldiers returned from Iraq, after 22 months of deployment. They were doing their first batch of reintegration training at the armory where I work, so I helped out with the set-up for the event, mostly putting computers and projectors in place for the various presentations.

It was gratifying to play a small role in welcoming these soldiers, though my part – as usual – was in the background. I didn’t talk to any of them, because I knew that they were mostly focused on each other, as well as their family members; I also knew that there would be plenty of people bombarding them with questions and comments and other inanities with which they’d rather not bother. The hundredth time someone asks, “so, how was Iraq?” merely grates for someone like me who didn’t see anything traumatic; for those who did, it must be a continual jab at an open wound.

As I advanced the slides for the chaplain’s opening brief, I chatted with Boner about our own redeployment experience. The chaplain’s words about the challenges of reintegration rang true, but we agreed that that truth took a while to manifest. These soldiers had literally just stepped off the plane; like us, they went straight from their demobilization station into reintegration training. If their journey was like ours, the chaplain would have been giving his brief just 72 hours after they had been roasting in the fall heat of Kuwait. Really, the first day home is far too soon to absorb the important things that the chaplain and others have to say – all you can think about is your husband/wife/girlfriend/boyfriend and your kids and dogs and cats and sleep and restaurant food and driving over 30 miles per hour and booze and video games (er, maybe not – pretty tired of those after a year in the desert). If you’re self-aware, you know that what all those presenters are saying must be true, but it’s all rather vague and abstract when compared with the giddiness and relief of finally being home.

They would’ve had counseling and briefings at their demob station – so maybe give the soldiers a week or so to relax, unwind, and find out what kind of problems they might be having before hitting them with the shotgun blast of broad-spectrum counseling.

Then again, maybe doing it right away keeps the troops focused before they completely unravel. It might not even take a week for some of them to lose their shit completely…(example: The Pontiff)

3 Comments

  1. Mrs. Melobi

    I think the families could use a briefing the day before the soldiers return. We could have been warned not to let you drive, for instance. Maybe some information about how children might respond and ideas on how to make the homecoming easier for them would also be welcomed before the big event.

    Homecoming could just be a celebration and a couple of days to acclimatize and spot a few issues. I think you’re right that a couple days later is a better time to start worrying about going back to work, getting your paperwork in order, figuring out how to resume your lives. The few days at home would give everyone something to talk about and reflect upon while eating wooden lunches.

    I don’t know what you do for cases like the Pontiff’s. But a soldier attending sessions while hungover is probably not conducive to learning.

  2. G&G

    another good blog

  3. Reski's Moms Daughter

    I’m back! I am finally looking through my bookmarks from Iraq, and found one of my favorites…. The Blog Machine City. Anyways, after catching up on some entries, I realize that Msr. Melobi is as good of a writer as her husband. Also, I am glad that you put these helpful tips in for redeploying troops. From what I recall, we were all (most of us) too hungover to even pay attention during our briefs. On top of that, I didn’t believe any of the post war symptoms that they warned us of… until I was on my own and realized I actually didn’t understand anyone back home. After the 3rd month of integrating, everything they were telling us was pretty much the truth. So maybe give soldiers time to soak in freedom before filling their heads with all this info. Okay thats it for me now.

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