Reintegration efforts reach out to soldiers

by Tammy Sakry
ECM Publishers

While soldiers stationed in Kuwait enjoyed a steak dinner with their families via the Internet as part of the Serving Our Troops event Feb. 25, another group of soldiers and their families reported to the Anoka Technical College for their 60-day reintegration training.

The 60 members of the National Guard Company B 2-211th, a Chinook helicopter unit, flew 1,790 missions, with a total of 48,040 passengers and 4,073,211 pounds of cargo while in Iraq for a year, as well as provided inspections and scheduled and unscheduled maintenance support.

And in August 2011, they were welcomed by families overjoyed to have them home.

But now the honeymoon period is over and problems are starting to crop up, said 2nd Lt. Edgar Moore, one of the National Guard’s resilience training officers.

Some soldiers are having problems with normalcy, he said.

These reintegration sessions give them the tools to know what to expect, anticipate possible reactions to situations and identify the strengths they have gained going through the deployment, Moore said.

During the Saturday training, soldiers had a chance to meet with representatives from several service organizations, as well as attend interactive sessions on parenting after deployment and financial planning as well as job interviews, after which they had their interview performances evaluated by staff from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED).

For couples, Moore held interactive sessions on how to use the resilience skills they learned during deployment to improve their relationships.

There was also a session for single soldiers on how to handle the loss of the support system they had with their war buddies during the deployment.

These sessions are good and offer a lot of resources, said Summer Wagner, wife of Chief Warrant Officer 2 Ryan Wagner.

This deployment was very different than Wagner’s first deployment in 2006.  During the first deployment, “we didn’t have kids,” Summer said.

This time the couple have two children, a 2-and-a-half-year-old daughter and a six-month-old son.

They used Skype and  Magic Jack, an Internet phone service, to keep in touch.

The reintegration classes are tailored to what soldiers have going on in their lives, said Ryan, a flight engineer.

For the Wagners, who are expecting their third child in August, the day included sessions on communicating and parenting.

It was nice to hear what others are going through and how the kids are reacting to different things, Summer said.

“We learned that we are doing pretty good,” she said.