September 5, 2008

Fully Train our Soldiers for the Rigors of War

In the military, especially in combat arms the training centers on becoming effective warriors without a concentration in developing into a full identity and individual, a requirement for reintegration back into society. In a battle with no solid enemy and no apparent battleground the warrior having been trained to combat the physical comes in contact with a foe that can over shadow the imagination.

The identification and reinforcement of values, emotion identification, anger management techniques along with stress management training would enable soldiers to realize better coping strategies when coming out of the combat zone. Further, interpersonal communication and social skills education along with boundaries identification would foster closer relationships with significant others.

By preparing the soldier or veteran they would have the necessary skills and tools to deal with the normal psychological adjustment of combat trauma and reintegration back into society. Also the person would have a proper foundation to treatment should they develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

In addition the military needs to teach mental health sensitivity training and PTSD awareness as a standard, in basic training and continuing throughout their careers thus giving mental injuries of war validity. Indoctrination and acceptance of psychological wounds would eventually break the stigma tied to mental trauma and allow soldiers and veterans to reach out before their lives spin out of control.

Training in these areas would give our soldiers an extra set of tools and weapons in fighting the psychological effects of combat and war. Training them before hand of what they may face upon going home would prepare them if they develop PTSD. Otherwise they will have gained the insights and ability to recognize when their fellow soldier suffers from PTSD.

As it stands now upon returning home after having been gone from family and loved ones the soldier goes through a psychological evaluation screening. Our soldiers know full well that if they give the wrong answers upon returning from Iraq and Afghanistan they will be kept from seeing their loved ones sooner. They have more incentive to ignore or commit to denial the signs of mental distress inherent in the actions of combat. This system compounds the problems of PTSD instead of addressing them, by reinforcing and legitimizing excuses and reasons to drive on without asking for help.

Finally, most Vietnam Veterans exhibited signs of PTSD years after coming home. Although I exhibited signs within the first year, it was 10-14 years before my PTSD became debilitating.

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