News: In the same boat: taking care of Navy Individual Augmentees
Story by Sgt. William Begley
BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan — In the Navy, sailors deploy as individual augmentees where they’re frequently separated from their unit creating situations where they work alone with other branches of service. Many times these sailors are the only Navy personnel on whatever combat outpost or forward operating base they are on.
Every service member deals with deployment differently. Separation from family and friends in an environment where they are the only sailor amongst other branches of service can be stressful enough to cause problems.
That’s why the Navy Mobile Care Team is striving to make every Navy sailors deployment experience better by interviewing them and using the data to help them get the help they need.
U.S. Navy Cmdr. Barry Adams is the officer in charge of the NMCT. Along with his four-person team, the Abilene, Texas native gathers and processes behavioral health data in Afghanistan.
“The primary purpose of the Behavioral Health Needs Assessment survey is simply to collect data from as many Navy individual augmentees as possible,” said Adams. “Then we look at that data across time and bring to light trends that have to do with combat stress and behavioral health and the day-to-day living experience during deployment.”
When the trends are brought to light by the data, they don’t just end up as some random fact on a piece of paper.
“Once we get all that information, we run it up to the Chief of Naval Operations and the Surgeon General,” said U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Moses Rivas.
Rivas is the non-commissioned officer in charge of the NMCT and a native of Temecula, Calif.
“The information stays anonymous, but goes to the people who can actually make changes,” he said.
The Navy started using the BHNA survey back in 2007 in response to an increasingly large influx of mental health issues, post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries.
“In 2006 the Vice Chief of Naval Operations who was Adm. Mike Mullen, formerly the Joint Chief of Staff, put out what he called the Blue-Gold message, which was very much ahead of its time,” said Adams. “It identified 13 key elements of care to warfighters including combat stress initiatives, and an anti-stigma campaign.”
Adams said that the Navy works closely with the Army and the Mental Health Assessment Test and that the Navy built the BHNA around 2006 and implemented it in 2007.
The war in Afghanistan has given the members of the MCT the opportunity to gather more data than in any other time in our history, giving them an accurate picture of the individual augmentee and their behavioral health needs. It also provides them with new tools to fight stress.
U.S. Navy Lt. Stephen E. Haden uses a tool called the Emwave, which is designed to help train individuals to lower their own stress. An Emwave takes pulse and breathing data and gives immediate feedback to the user. It is used by the Navy Seals to help them to learn to lower their stress while under pressure.
Haden is the Bagram Air Field liaison officer, North Atlantic Treaty Organization Training Mission-Afghanistan, and is an individual augmentee.
“I tried it and it was fun,” said the Pearland, Texas native. “It makes me focus on my breathing and focus on relaxing. When I use the tools they have, they work.”
Rivas said that deployments can have a way of creating a “Groundhog Day” effect.
“When you’re in the military you see a bunch of different folks, but when you’re in your unit you see the same people every day,” said Rivas.
Rivas said he enjoys his job tremendously.
“I like that I get to travel, meet new people and interact with them,” stated Rivas. “We hear what their experience has been, we share our experience as well. It lets them know that we’re in the same boat. It lets them know that the Navy hasn’t forgotten about them.”
Date Posted:04.11.2012 08:05
Location:BAGRAM AIR FIELD, AF
Hometown:ABILENE, TX, US
Hometown:BOSTON, MA, US
Hometown:FORT BRAGG, NC, US
Hometown:FORT HOOD, TX, US
Hometown:PEARLAND, TX, US
Hometown:TEMECULA, CA, US