Reunion training helps families prepare


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Chad Popchoke and his mother, Bianca, patiently await the arrival of Pfc. Christopher Popchoke, B Company, 3rd Battalion, 509th Parachute Infantry Regiment, at Buckner Physical Fitness Center March 1, 2010.

U.S. Army, John Pennell

They line the runway, making for a sea of shifting bodies, anxious for the aircraft door to open. They are wives, husbands, children, girlfriends, boyfriends and family members who have been waiting these long months for their soldiers to come home.

There are signs and banners showing the excitement and eagerness for these loved ones to have them back, each one with a different thought of what will happen when that door opens and their soldier steps out.

There is so much information that the loved ones would want to know, but they do not know what horrors or delights the Soldier has seen on this deployment. For many, this is just another deployment to stick in their belts. But for others, this is their first.

The Army Community Service team, along with others, offers classes they are calling “Reunion training” to loved ones of soldiers returning from a deployment. This training helps the loved ones know how to communicate and what to expect when their soldier comes home.

The training is divided into two sessions. The first session addresses signs and symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and combat stress, and how to deal with them and also a section addressing finances.

“(One thing they learn is) PTSD and combat stress, and what it is and how to recognize it,” said Tracie West, ACS mobilization and deployment specialist. “That way, spouses can know the signs from their soldier if need be and are able to assist them in getting the help if it is needed.”

The second session addresses communication and expectations versus reality, and also provides a section on parents and what to expect from their children.

The class isn’t just for loved ones experiencing their first deployment, but experienced spouses are also encouraged to come and share their knowledge and learn some new or updated information.

West said she had an experienced spouse who told new-to deployment spouses, that every deployment was different and her expectation of the returning deployment this time might not be the same as the one last time.

Another thing the instructors encourage the loved ones to do is to bring their soldier with them if they are already home.

This first session of the class was hosted for those who are coming back early to move or for any other reason.

The class isn’t just for members of the 4th Brigade (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, who have the majority members coming back soon, but also for anyone else who has a loved one returning from their deployment in the next few months, no matter what their branch.

The spouse can take the skills they have learned back to the household and the reintegration will be smoother because of all the information they learned from the class, said West. The next time the Reunion training will be hosted is on Sept. 5 and 6 from 6 to 8 p.m. There will also be classes on Sept. 13 and 15, which will combine both sessions of classes and will be from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

 

West gave this advice to those who can’t make the training:

“Take it slow when they come back; let the soldier reintegrate at their own pace,” West said. “That is pretty much the most important thing.”

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