Post deployment a rocky road for returning Airmen
By Master Sgt. Preston Stafford, 90th Maintenance Group
/ Published February 05, 2007
F.E. Warren AFB, Wyo. --
Now that most of our AEF 3 Airmen are back, it's a good time to share some tips and observations on the personal side of post deployment.
Many first-time deployers talk about difficulty sleeping when they get back. Usually that's just jet lag. You should expect to need a one day readjustment period for every time zone you crossed coming home. Get some sun and eat at the regular times for this time zone. It's a lot quieter here than it is in a war zone. That's a good thing. You'll be enjoying the peace and quiet real soon.
Frequent nightmares aren't normal; furthermore, they don't get better with time. You should seek help. If I've had a particularly rough time on a trip, I find talking about it helps. It seems to set the memories in stone and prevents my imagination from monkeying with them.
Consider limiting your alcohol intake. Alcohol isn't going to help you make sound decisions.
While deployed, you experienced new things and grew as a person. At home your loved ones and co-workers did the same thing. When you pretend nothing has changed and try forcing things to be the way they were, it doesn't work. Be flexible, maintain your sense of humor and communicate. No one at home developed telepathic powers while you were gone. If something bothers you now and it didn't before, tell people. Listening to what those around you are saying won't hurt either.
While you were deployed your family had to fill the space you left behind. Somebody else did your share of the house work, somebody else drove the children to school and so on. You were not "replaced." These things had to happen, so your loved ones figured out a way to make them happen. Don't come crashing home and wreck the new balance. Ask your way back in. You may fit back into your family in a whole new and better way.
You shouldn't be surprised if you feel a little out of place after returning from your deployment. While you were downrange you worked at a downrange pace with downrange priorities. It takes a while to get back into the uprange rhythm. While you were downrange you lived in a higher threat environment. There are other adaptations that make perfect sense for Airmen serving in a combat zone.
As you can imagine, many of your combat zone adaptations are going to seem a little funny here. Keep in mind that you're not going crazy if it takes some time to adapt.
I have issues with strangers and crowds since I came back, and you may too. It's an example of a combat zone adaptation that's a problem uprange. In a combat zone it's normal to not like strangers standing behind you. Crowds are generally not a good thing either. Back home, the threat level is a lot lower, and those are unreasonable concerns. Forcing the issue is helpful. Make a point of going to movies and eating out. Talking about it helps too. Actually saying what's bothering you may help you realize just how silly it is.
For those of you who led troops downrange, the combat zone full-throttle approach to problem solving is going to freak out Airmen back in your duty section. Slow down before you make a total idiot out of yourself.
Getting back to normal is a gradual process, but there does need to be progress. If you're 90 days post deployment and you have no attention span because every little noise still bothers you, you need help and owe it to yourself and your loved ones to get it.
What's the impact of you not solving these issues? The answer is Airmen who maintain duty performance while their personal lives fall to pieces.
Eventually duty performance goes too and the Airman has nothing to fall back on.
Healthy Airmen are needed. Get the help. There are a lot of people here who can and want to help you through this. There are the obvious ones: co-workers, the chaplain's office, life skills and the airman and family readiness center.
There are less obvious ones like the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars. You'd be surprised how much this generation of warriors has in common with warriors who served before us. They want to help, and they're waiting for you to give them the chance.