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U.S. Army Counseling Troops on Returning to Civilian Life

A temporary metal fence prevented family members of soldiers in the 326 Engineer Battalion and 591 Engineer Company from rushing out onto the flight line. But nothing could prevent them from erupting into a wild round of cheers when they got a glimpse of the charter plane bringing their soldiers home from Iraq, knowing this time they were not going back.

“Thank God, thank God,” repeated Carrie Stiglich as she hung on the arm of her husband, 1st Sgt. Frank Stiglich. 

“We helped the country out. We gave them the training, gave them the tools and gave them the blueprint for a successful government, “ said 1st Sgt. Stiglich.

The company commander expressed similar happiness that the job in Iraq was over. 

“It’s awesome. It’s great to be home. I spent four years over there so it’s really great to see that come to a conclusion,” said Maj. Brad Morgan, of the 591 Engineer Company.

But through the joyful reunions, as fathers kiss children and wives cling as if their spouse might slip away again, they know the soldier needs to be back on base in the morning. 

The Army no longer gives the troops an immediate break when they return due to a sad reality learned from past combat deployments: battles still wait for them when they get home. 

“The suicide rate in the army is the highest it has ever been since we’ve been measuring it,” said Col. Paul Cordts, commander of Blanchfield Army Community Hospital.

Soldiers go through a seven-day re-integration program and a major portion of that is the post-deployment behavioral health assessment. That includes questionnaires and tests to determine if a soldier has brought back physical or emotional wounds. 

“We have a lot of emphasis on behavioral health. Soldiers, when they first come back, they have a big adjustment period,” says Lewis Long, medical administrator at Fort Campbell.

The transition from the stress of combat to the stress of daily life proves to be difficult for a percentage of fighting men and women. It can manifest itself in alcohol abuse, domestic troubles, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression or a combination.

Sometimes the difficulties will present themselves because a spouse has developed a new routine in the house while the soldier is away. Often times problems will develop over finances.

Sometimes children have a hard time adjusting to a parent being home again. The problems are not always glaring. 

“I think our goal here is to pick up those soldiers who are having more subtle symptoms of behavioral health,” said Col. Cordts.

Combating the problem also needs to be subtle. There is a perception, particularly among fighting men and women, that a problem is a weakness and it could stand in the way of a promotion. 

One solution is a closed circuit connection to a psychologist at a remote location. The soldier talks to the doctor from the security of a soundproof booth.

The army does not stop observing or offering help to the troops after the seven-day program. In fact, the soldiers are brought in for a check up 90-100 days after they leave the re-integration program.

Michael Tobin joined FOX News Channel (FNC) in 2001 and currently serves as a Chicago-based correspondent.

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