by Thea Skinner
21st Space wing Public Affairs staff writer
Preparing for Air Force deployment will soon correspond with a new neurological test assessing signs of trauma. The testing was announced at a deployment readiness briefing at the Airmen and Family Readiness Center Aug. 31.
During the briefing, several subject matter experts from Sexual Assault Response Coordinator, the American Red Cross, Financial Readiness, Military Life Consultants, and the Child Development Center presented resources and tools for deployment.
The briefing came two days before U.S. Sen. Mark Udall convened the new Military Advisory Committee, in which mental-health services was a topic of concern. The committee is based in Colorado Springs to advise him on Colorado’s armed services and veterans’ issues.
To closely monitor the health of Airmen, a neurological assessment will become mandatory on Oct. 1 for any Airman or civilian returning from a deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom or Operation Enduring Freedom, said Staff Sgt. Seth Russell, 21st Medical Operations Squadron who oversees Post Traumatic Stress Disorder related issues. The assessment tests Airmen for signs of PTSD or prior concussions that result in traumatic brain injury.
“PTSD is an intrusive thought that will not go away,” Sergeant Russell said. “The attitude of the military is changing — people used to say don’t go seek mental health.”
“I see more work stress feedback,” Sergeant Russell said. “Whenever you are stressed your body will amp up. If you are consistently on the go, without release, physical damage occurs.”
Solutions to stressors include finding personal meaning in work, communicating often, having an outlet, exercise, therapy, and fostering group unity.
According to Sergeant Russell, the readiness briefing is mandatory for “anyone going out to any sort of deployed environment,” Families’ contact information is provided to the center to provide services such as sunshine calls to spouses offering volunteer services at home and pillow cases with photos of family members for children.
The briefing provides resources for Airmen deploying and the families that stay behind such as family care plans and personal care plans. In the family dynamic roles shift in responsibilities during deployment, so being open and honest about feelings is essential.
“It is very important that the school is aware that Mom or Dad is deployed, so they can keep an eye on what is going on with children,” said Lisa Ballard, Airman and Family Readiness Center Military Child Education coordinator, who has two children and a deployed spouse. “Each deployment is different. If it did not affect your children before, it might this time.”
Children may exhibit signs of stress, so providing physical and emotional comfort, maintaining a routine, and encouraging communication is key to resiliency. The Peterson CDC recommends involving children in the packing process and talking about deployment often.
“I thought it was good information,” said Michele Amore, spouse of Master Sgt. Linnard Amore, U.S. Northern Command. Stationed at Peterson for four years, Sergeant Amore will deploy this fall. “Family readiness has a lot of resources I did not know about,” she said.
For more information about neurological tests contact Sergeant Russell at 556-7804 and for information about deployed readiness contact AFRC at 556-6141.