Story and photo by Sgt. Ruth Pagán
2nd Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs Office, 4th Infantry Division
Soldiers of 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, participated in a pilot program designed to help troops identify and combat post-deployment post-traumatic stress during training at Veterans Chapel, July 19-20.
“This particular product was a collaboration of a number of individuals, including prime researchers from the behavioral health advisory team,” said Maj. Thomas Jarrett, chief of special subjects, Department of Behavioral Health Systems, U.S. Army Medical Center and School, Fort Sam Houston, Texas. “It was designed to be a program to explain the different responses following combat, not just (post-traumatic stress disorder) but post-traumatic stress.”
On the first day, Jarrett trained 10 Soldiers from across the brigade who, in turn will train additional members in the organization. Participants were required to have deployed and be either a combat medic or a behavioral health care specialist to become certified instructors.
The Soldiers received training on how to effectively give a two-hour presentation, how to create conversations with the audience, and how to respond to different scenarios that could arise during training.
“Dialogue is the most important part,” said Staff Sgt. Douglas Wilson, the noncommissioned officer in charge of the Department of Behavioral Health and Science, assigned to 187th Medical Battalion, 32nd Medical Brigade, at Fort Sam Houston. “We want to get Soldiers to talk about their experiences, not just while they were deployed, but since they’ve been back.”
“Part of the training is to normalize the experience of individuals and to help them realize there is a percentage of individuals that will not require intervention,” Jarrett said. “There is a percentage that will require some coaching, and some will require counseling, but we firmly believe that the majority of individuals will get through their experience — especially if they attend treatment early, instead of languishing and waiting.
“Essentially, as they go through this training, they’re realizing that there is an almost predictable cycle of emotions and feelings. The majority of individuals are not going to develop a PTSD diagnosis and the majority of individuals with post-traumatic stress are going to carry on to where it is no longer traumatic for them and eventually something they will grow through.”
During the second day of training, approximately 200 brigade Soldiers trained on how to react if they or a fellow Soldier are showing signs of PTS.
“I think Soldiers will gain some insight on why they get sad for no reason: why they are feeling the way they do, why they are getting so angry, why they are so jumpy, anxious or keyed up,” said Spc. Jefferey Villar, an instructor and behavior health specialist with Company C, 204th Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd BCT. “With understanding, you can start to change things.”
The training will help Soldiers understand their feelings and know when to ask for help, said Staff Sgt. Ernest Galindez, a section sergeant for the medic platoon with Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 1st Squadron, 10th Calvary Regiment, 2nd BCT.
“If the Army continues with this type of training, they can help a lot of Soldiers,” Galindez said.
The training is in its preliminary stages and is still being validated, said Jarrett. All Soldiers completing the training are required to complete surveys.
“We are doing pre- and post-(instruction) surveys to see if we imparted the information we wanted to,” Jarrett said. “We are also going to ask for feedback from the Soldiers and instructors.”