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INJUSTICE |

July 18, 2007

INJUSTICE
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.

Comments

This is a great post. Now, I going to sound old, But, when I came back from Viet Nam, I was out of the Army and on the streets of Oakland in 48 hours. I was not even sure where I was or how to get home. They could not get rid of us fast enough. I am glad they are giving the troops at least a little more time to de-compress.

Old Dog, You sound old but very much together. I'm happy to read that you've made it. You didn't mention that when you were dumped on the Oakland street, our country was vilifying the ones who were lucky enough to return. I know about that time intimately. There were no parades or welcome signs. Our returning vets now may be in much worse physical condition (more wounds are not fatal), but they will not be spit at by civilians. You are correct, though, 1SG, that the NG is getting used and abused. My wish is that the war ends NOW and all our soldier citizens return home to peace.

Old Dog, You sound old but very much together. I'm happy to read that you've made it. You didn't mention that when you were dumped on the Oakland street, our country was vilifying the ones who were lucky enough to return. I know about that time intimately. There were no parades or welcome signs. Our returning vets now may be in much worse physical condition (more wounds are not fatal), but they will not be spit at by civilians. You are correct, though, 1SG, that the NG is getting used and abused. My wish is that the war ends NOW and all our soldier citizens return home to peace.

Old Dog, You sound old but very much together. I'm happy to read that you've made it. You didn't mention that when you were dumped on the Oakland street, our country was vilifying the ones who were lucky enough to return. I know about that time intimately. There were no parades or welcome signs. Our returning vets now may be in much worse physical condition (more wounds are not fatal), but they will not be spit at by civilians. You are correct, though, 1SG, that the NG is getting used and abused. My wish is that the war ends NOW and all our soldier citizens return home to peace.

I am from Minnesota and have been wondering about our NG who have just completed 22 months of service, returning to their families in less than a week. As happy as I am to have them home, I also worry about them. "OK, your a civilian, now your a soldier, now you're not." We've already had one die in a standoff on the freeway, after pointing his rifle at the cops, angry at the world. I pray the NG will provide the support these people will need to decompress and be civillians.

Here's a website you may find useful. http://www.addicted.com is a site for friends, families, and those who suffer from various addictions.

You hit the nail on the head with that one! My buddy's unit just hit demobe on Monday and they are expected to be with their families at home by the following Tuesday at the latest. I've often heard that each state dictates the policies for how to handle re-integration for its troops. Hopefully one of them out there has it down "right" and will start sharing what they have learned.

Speaking from experience, it was great to be home as soon as my unit was, but a plan as you just suggested would have helped a lot of us adjust better.

I'm surprised the army--okay maybe not surprised, dismayed--has not learned its lessons. There is sound research demonstrating that one of the reasons returning World War II and Korean War Vets suffered lower rates of debilitating PTSD and other mental illnesses was "That big boat home." Most combat soldiers were first kept on station for a period of time after hostilities were ceased, and then--there being little in the way of trans-oceanic air travel--they were literally "shipped" home. This gave them the time to de-stress and to work through their thoughts with their freinds over a fairly lengthy period of time. While this did not prevent PTSD, it helped with many soldiers coping skills.

The whole process of getting soldiers home was a matter of months. The idea that National Gaurd units are once again being deprived of this time is unfortunate.

Another idiotic policy, but not surprising considering that Senator Webb's amendment proposing 1:1 dwell time for active duty, and 3:1 for NG, was not even brought to floor debate thanks to obstructionist tactics by Administration supporters. For the Administration to cave in and provide for much lengthier recovery times for returning troops would be to admit that being in combat is a life-changing, traumatic experience requiring decompression. This does not comport with the "soldier as automaton" fantasy which allows our leaders to keep sending the same people back to Iraq over and over again with little apparent concern over their long-term well-being.

Alright, I'll be the pain in the ass for this post. When we were pulled from our duty station/troop medical clinic in LSA Anaconda, we had almost two weeks of "sharing time" in temp quarters (tents with bunkbeds) in Anaconda, where we had nothing but time to sit and stare at eachother. Then almost another week of it in Kuwait. And then several more days in Wisconsin. I lived with my fellow soldiers for fourteen months at that point, and I'd had plenty of time to talk about the broken marriages, screwed careers, and what we'd do when we got home. There was nothing I wanted more than to get away from all of it, and return to sleeping in a room where the only other person was my wife, and the bed was more than two feet wide. I came away from that experience with a huge appreciation of many things I used to take for granted, like privacy and running water.

I'm re-upping in 10 days after being out for a year, because of things I miss about being in the Guard, and with my wife's support, I'll voluntarily redeploy if asked. But spend more time than it takes to fill out forms and do the mandatory dog and ponies when I'd get back? Don't think so.

I never saw so much done so wrong than I have in Iraq.
What was those years of education of our leaders for? Learning how much abuse one can get away with without getting pinched. After two tours I learned that the Guard is being heavily abused and the active force are trained to crap on them more. End the war for the Guard now. Let those who want the full time job in the war biz to fight it themselves. Let the Guard clean up the mess afterwards like we always are asked to do.

There have been a lot of lessons about war that our government and the military just plain chose to ignore or worse hide from our people. If you look at crime statistics for the USA you will see that all types of crime doubled between 1965 and 1975 and then stayed high put steady for three decades before beginning a slow decline. Some of this increase was caused by returning soldiers that could no longer mess well with society and more was caused by the lowering of the country's morals cause by a decade of distrust in and abuse by our leaders.

With the murder rate having increase by 10,000 people a year during the Vietnam period one could claim that over the ensuing 30 years that 300,000 American civilians died as a result of our misguided adventure in Southeast Asia.

1SG,

I now understand why I am having such a ROUGH time adjusting after this deployment as opposed my last deployment. My first deployment was an active duty one, this one wasn't. Thank you for the clarification.

Old Dog: Oakland! Hell at least you didn't get dumped on the streets of San Francisco. That's where they did spit on me. Called me 'baby killer' and asked, "Did you kill anyone?" Since I really wasn't sure, and felt really bad about it, that was an enormously disturbing question.

Adjusting? Hell I never really readjusted to being that nice churchy kid. More like a lifetime 180.

What we saw and experienced was real. What IS unreal is the folks attitude back home. My gen was hosed on John Wayne and Clint Eastwood. You got Bill O'Reiley and Chuck Norris. All of it unreal.

What is real is the dirt, the filth, the humanity, the alieness of them vs us. And they got the home team advantage. Yeah, what's rough is coming home, seeing what a spoiled bunch of poodles most Americans are, and tying to get your mind back in synch. with theirs.

I wonder if, just mebbe, that's where some guys start to snap. . .

Anyhoo . . . don't sweat the small stuff. And it's all small stuff from here on in.

R

Here's a website you may find useful. http://www.addicted.com is a site for friends, families, and those who suffer from various addictions.

I returned home from Korea in 1953 on points, a civilian within 10 days, registered for college and in class within 30 days.

In Korea started off as Artillery FO and then 105 Battery firing officer.

One child, plus another was born while away. I don't recall any problems along the way and we just celebrated 57 years of marriage.

Have attended several reunions and no mention was ever made of need for counseling. We were tougher that the Vietnam bunch - I think not

J. McGee; Your words:"We were tougher that the Vietnam bunch - I think not"

Nasty question. What's your point? Tougher? Howzzat work? Some people do not feel anything. There's a name for that. But it's not normal.

BTW: 75-100K post era suicides, depending on how you count it. Still a debate on whether to count drug overdoses and freeway 'accidents'. Not counting in-country suicides where a guy just stands up during a firefight.

Shaming those who suffer is not a good thing to do.

R

J. McGee,
What is your point? That you (or your age cohort) are so much better than those that came after?
An old (Army) friend who just retired as chief pharmacist at a VA hospital said that they are now seeing PTSD from Korean vets. Once the vets retire they can't use work to keep that box shut. Have you no compassion?

J. McGee, I think you doth protest too much. I have a friend who works for the VA in DC. She says that the number of WWII and Korean war vets seeking help from their mental health unit has skyrocketed since the Iraq war began. People who spent their lives trying to put their wars behind them are now suffering from their repressed memories and experiences. Heart attacks and failing health can erase the barriers they have built in their minds against the memories. There's no shame in it. It's natural to recoil in horror from something as destructive as war. It's natural to feel the stress of having witnessed such things. I hope you continue to feel well, but please do not disrespect those who cannot deal with it, and if you ever reach the point where you cannot deal with it please seek out the help you will need.

I understand where the First Sergeant is coming from, however I disagree with him. Why?

Beucase First Army, the people who run mobilization and demobilization insist on treating Reservists and National Guardsman like children and second - class citizens.

The active duty Soldier comes off the plane and goes to his home, his wife (or her husband) and kids (or dogs). He or she has a beer.

The RC Soldier? Locked down on post for demob, no alcohol, no nothing of the stuff we could not do here in the Sandbox.

Most of the problems that will happen will manifest themselves 60-90 days out and we will rely on the RC unit or the VA to help. Extended demob will not help. It will make the Soldiers more angry, more anxious, and less likely to stay in.

Demob as quickly as possible and let them have a beer. No more being treated as children and second class citizens.

HAHA, Badger 6 I respect your difference of opinion and I felt I should reply. I have had a lot of posts on this site and many, many comments towards them but have never replied to any. However, now it is different. Badger6 let me start by saying I am a fan of your blog and follow it often, so you have my respect there also. Even though I stated that RC soldiers should have more of a demob process, I am not saying to lock them down. Staying on active duty and going through reintegration in no way suggests that. Just because there are idiots in 1st Army and as Garrison CMDRS on demob sites, does not mean their word is final. Drinking, allowing yourself to express thoughts, feelings, etc. is a way for some people to deal with it. I demobed at Ft. Dix, and was only there for 3 days. They had a no booze policy there, they had it, which does not mean I followed it or that I didn't. I will leave it at that. Mass rules are made by many in the military in order to deal with the lowest common denominator, which is usually the 18 year old snot nose soldier who can't handle a 6 pack. As a sr. leader and with a team of sr. people, the last thing I am worried about is someone not handling alcohol, especially when my youngest guy was like 35. So, I guess it is not that I disagree with you, I think we are saying the same thing. It is just the perception of what it means to stay on AD and demob. I mean I and many others drank like a fish while I was in mobilization, so I think it is a mute point not to allow it at demob. People need to be held accountable, whether it is DWI, beating a spouse, etc. It should not take a Garrison Command group to play daddy to those that are daddys themselves.

My brother is now telling his Vietnam stories after all these years.

He was in the Navy and his ship was coming into San Diego to refit before returning to duty transferring Marine amphib units into Vietnam and med-evac and busted units back out of Vietnam. He was due to muster out in a month and applied for, and was granted, early release.

He and another guy were choppered off the ship and dropped in the parking lot of a closed supermarket at 8:00 at night.

That's it, see ya, thank you for your service. Welcome Home!

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