July 18, 2007
Name: 1SG Troy Steward
Posting date: 7/18/07
Returned from: Iraq
Milblog URL: bouhammer.com
What an injustice the Army has done to our National Guard soldiers -- while thinking they are doing them a favor. The Army tries to get NG soldiers back home with their families as soon as possible after leaving a combat zone. They seem to think this is the best thing for them and what everyone wants. It may be what the soldier and family wants at the moment, but it is performing an injustice in the long run. The soldiers are literally thrown from a combat zone to sitting in their living rooms in less than 21 days, and that is on the long end. It can be as short as 14 days.
When OIF first started, the Army had planned to run every NG soldier through a six week de-mobilization process, slowly getting them back to a non-combat environment and normal life. However, for many political and resource reasons, the Army has shortened this to around five to nine days, then home. After three days, they come back into the armory for a few days of follow up de-mob classes, and then they go home again. They do not return to the Armory for normal drills for at least 90 days.
Active duty soldiers typically are given a 14-21 day block leave at home, and then they are back at their bases with their fellow soldiers. This is good because the honeymoon is still happening in those first few weeks, and any issues that may arise or develop will happen when they are back at base. Also, being with their battle-buddies in a peace-time environment, coming off the high and talking through their experiences, helps them with the process of returning from combat. Being thrown back to the normal civilian life, with weeks off before they have to go back to work or back to drill, and sitting with family and friends who cannot relate to what they have been through, can be very damaging. In the long run, alcoholism runs rampant, relationships fall apart, risky behavior increases, depression sets in, and jobs are hard to keep.
The Army needs to stop going for the short-term win and instead keep soldiers on Active Duty longer so they can slowly decompress. It took a year or less of constant combat to get the NG soldier to that state of mind and nature. It will take more than three weeks to get them out of it.