BIRMINGHAM, Ala. --
Since the 1990s, the United States military has deployed hundreds of thousands of troops to the Middle East and other parts of the world. During deployment, military personnel face hostile actions, infectious disease, and many physical and mental stressors. Although the Department of Defense has had a long-term commitment to member health issues, a new Joint Chiefs initiative called for increased emphasis on service member health education, medical screening for returning troops and post-deployment monitoring of diagnosed or emerging health problems which took effect in 1993.
As many in the 117th Air Refueling Wing are aware, upon returning from a deployment the member will complete on-line questionnaires, forms 2796 and 2900, that ask about health-related issues. The questions cover a broad range of problems and also include a survey of mental health-related symptoms.
The goal of the post-deployment health assessment is to identify medical problems that could be related to deployment, make line-of-duty determinations, and arrange for appropriate treatment to get the member back to work. Health care providers will review these forms, and when needed, will perform an additional interview with the member for clarification and possibly arrange for a referral. Avoiding chronic problems and returning an individual to work is the goal of the post-deployment health plan.
A common problem associated with the post-deployment period is stress. As mentioned above, the mandatory on-line screenings, forms 2796 and 2900, solicit responses from the service member that could indicate the presence of conditions such as depression, anxiety, acute stress reactions, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or in certain circumstances, Traumatic Brain Injury. Following a return from deployment many members will experience minor, transient changes in their health. This can be due to the pressures of the mission, travel across multiple time zones, or fatigue.
Commonly reported problems include: varying aches and pains, difficulty sleeping or a change in appetite. Assessing and managing the different degrees of post-deployment stress is a major component of a re-deployment plan. The lead person in this effort is the member. The individual person’s insight into his or her health, especially mental and behavioral, is important. The returning person will face certain challenges such as reintegrating back into a less exciting civilian or military work routine, re-establishing a normal family life with their spouse and children, and resuming life management responsibilities such as with financial matters.
Everyone reacts differently to post-deployment stress. Normal reactions to the abnormal, and likely hazardous, situations and events of deployment can affect a person’s thoughts, feelings and behaviors. A re-deployed individual may experience or exhibit some of the following:
· Thinking about traumatic experiences of events
· Feeling sad, anxious, paranoid, or angry
· Avoiding circumstances that may prompt a flashback
· Lacking their old “energy level” or not wanting to socialize
· Increased alcohol or drug use
Although these are normal reactions, they could indicate more involved problems. Some individuals may be exhibiting signs and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, depression or other problems that could be identified and treated.
A service member must be aware of the possible effects of deployment and re-deployment. They also should be aware of the post-deployment assessment process, forms 2796 & 2900, and of other resources available for help.
The following represent some excellent resources for a member to use:
1. Military OneSource
2. Department of Defense PTSD and TBI Quick Facts
3. After Deployment
4. National Military Family Association