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2009 Conversations


Sara Groves
12.21.08

Keith and Kristyn Getty
12.14.08

Jesse Miranda
11.30.08

Heather Bland
11.23.08

Cathleen Lewis
11.16.08

Robert Leathers
11.9.08

Ravi Zacharias
10.26.08

Scotty Gibbons
10.19.08

George O. Wood
9.28.08

George O. Wood
9.21.08

G. Robert Cook Jr.
9.14.08

Michelle LaRowe Conover
8.31.08

Janet Boynes
8.24.08

Kirk Cameron
8.17.08

Laura Wilkinson
8.10.08

Melody Rossi
7.27.08

Randy Travis
7.20.08

Maylo Upton-Aames
7.13.08

Chuck Norris
6.29.08

Francis Xavier 'Chip' Flaherty Jr.
6.22.08

Ben Carson
6.15.08

Robert H. Spence
6.8.08

Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Schloesser
5.25.08

R. Albert Mohler Jr.
5.18.08

James K. Bridges
5.11.08

Manny Mill
4.27.08

Brock Gill
4.20.08

Robert Burt
4.13.08

Gerry Hindy
3.30.08

J.I. Packer
3.23.08

Stanley Horton
3.16.08

Linda Mintle
3.9.08

Joanna Weaver
2.24.08

Buck Taylor
2.17.08

Debra Risner
2.10.08

Bill Glass
1.27.08

Edward Gilbreath
1.20.08

Rob Seagears and Andy Casper
1.13.08


2007 Conversations


2006 Conversations


 

Conversation: Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Schloesser

Chaplains’ role in soldier readiness

Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Schloesser commands the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division out of Fort Campbell, Ky. He visited recently with Editor Ken Horn.

tpe: With several units currently deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, you speak of “battleproofing” soldiers and their families. What does that involve?

SCHLOESSER: The 101st has 12,000 soldiers in Iraq. They’ve been there for some months, and we just got back from visiting them. We have 4,000 either in Afghanistan or soon to join the headquarters there. We’ll eventually have about another 4,000 in Afghanistan.

ÒBattleproofingÓ basically speaks of good, world-class, tough training to prepare a soldier for the rigors of combat, as well as the challenges of dealing with counter-insurgency. Our soldiers prepare each and every day, whether weÕre out on our local ranges or when we go down to our joint readiness training center and interact with role players in a weeklong activity offering the full spectrum of combat and counter-insurgency scenarios.

We do a lot more, however, to help the soldier. We insist that each and every one of them has an assigned battle buddy who watches over them, both here in garrison as well as in combat. Finally, we spend a lot of time preparing mentally and emotionally both the soldiers and their families for the rigors of being away for 12 to 15 months. This is where our chaplains come in.

tpe: What are some steps taken to prepare soldiers’ families for their family member’s deployment?

SCHLOESSER: The Army has a great number of programs they have institutionalized and invested heavily in over the last two years as the stress on families has become clearer to us and probably more acute. These programs include everything from enhanced child care to programs that help a family cope with long-term deployments. Military One Source is a toll-free number offering help for everything from worries about their soldier to worries about themselves to worries about how to take care of a car. That’s done at the Army level.

At the installation level, we have a number of institutions like Army Community Service and our Morale, Welfare and Recreation Department. We provide a number of local programs, both in the way of counseling as well as in financial, emotional and mental preparation for separation. Follow-through programs are in place once the soldiers are gone.

Finally, at the unit level, we offer Family Readiness Groups, which is a wonderful concept where we have volunteers and paid assistants who come together to help families cope with deployment.

tpe: How do you help reintegrate soldiers with their families following deployment?

SCHLOESSER: We start to prepare families and soldiers months before soldiers redeploy back home. They receive a series of briefings, but more importantly, they get access to counseling. We discuss the issues that are going to be on the table once the exuberance of meeting and coming together gives way to real life.

Spouses are now used to a lot of independence. The soldier thinks he’s coming back and things haven’t changed in 12 to 15 months, yet the roles may be slightly different. The family needs to factor in what the soldier’s been through and what the spouse has been through as well as what the children have faced. So all that’s discussed with the soldier and with the family before the soldiers come home.

There’s another element to that process. Once we’re back, our Chaplains Corps and Army Community Services provide a number of workshops and retreats. For example, the chaplains run a marriage retreat, which is always well attended by families trying to build a stronger marriage in spite of the previous separation.

tpe: Could you comment further on the value of chaplains in combat situations and also at home?

SCHLOESSER: In our division of 26,000 soldiers, we have almost 80 chaplains. The majority of those will deploy with us and are deployed either in Iraq or in Afghanistan. Some will stay here to take care of our families. Those deployed provide, by denomination, all the normal services you would expect from a chaplain. But they also provide counseling in country.

Combat is tough. It drains a person and places an awful lot of mental difficulties on a young adult. Chaplains can help them understand and place their experiences into a broader spiritual and emotional context.

Here at home, of course, the families go through the same types of stresses. They don’t experience combat, but they face the stresses of being here worried about their soldier, worried about their own adaptation to being without their soldier, without their husband, without their wife. Chaplains not only do the normal services, but also provide that type of counseling and linkages to keep a family resilient.

tpe: Could you share what post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is and what is being done to help soldiers suffering with it?

SCHLOESSER: PTSD for a soldier is basically a condition where they re-experience what they have lived through in combat. Symptoms include nightmares and flashbacks of combat. Soldiers may become irritable or agitated, or may display total numbness to conditions occurring around them. Sometimes they feel disjointed not only from the unit they’re in, but also from the people who love them the most, their own families. If not treated, PTSD can lead soldiers to inappropriate or dangerous activity and lead to the collapse of families.

We prescreen soldiers before we deploy. Many of us have been on more than one deployment and we try to see where soldiers are mentally and emotionally before we go. While we’re in the field our chaplains play a huge role, but we also have behavioral consultants and mental health professionals, and they watch over our soldiers, especially those who experience a significant trauma while deployed.

As soldiers redeploy, we again screen them. We have a follow-up screening about three to six months after they return. So there’s a great deal of emphasis on trying to identify PTSD. More importantly, there’s a great deal of emphasis on communicating to soldiers that screening and treatment are never meant to ostracize them. They are part of an Army family that’s been together in a tough situation, and we’re here to help treat it rather than to point them out and say they’re no longer fit for soldiering.


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