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    Staff Sgt. Timmy combats stress with smiles

    Staff Sgt. Timmy Combats Stress With Smiles

    Photo By Sgt. Scott Davis | U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Timmy shows off for U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Penny Barker, a...... read more read more



    Story by Sgt. Scott Davis 

    Combined Joint Task Force 101

    Staff Sgt. Timmy deployed to Afghanistan in July and has worked like a dog ever since, averaging 120 interactions per week between him and other service members.

    It’s not an easy job being one of two stress therapy dogs in Afghanistan, but he’s been trained specifically for his mission of putting smiles on faces of servicemembers deployed.

    “Timmy is a 2-year-old yellow lab and is part of our combat stress team here,” said U.S. Army Capt. Theresa Schillreff, occupational therapist with the 254th Combat Outpatient Stress Clinic, 30th Medical Brigade. “He has been trained to deal with the stress that a dog would endure here. For example, he’s been out to firing ranges and has practice getting on and off helicopters with all his safety gear on to include ear muffs and safety goggles.”

    Schillreff is also in charge of prevention and outreach for the Combat Stress Center here. Her team works in the Freedom Restoration Center, which is also the name of the program Timmy is currently being integrated into.

    “The Freedom Restoration Center is not a mental health program. It’s for servicemembers who are dealing with combat and operational stresses,” said Schillreff, a native of Tuckahoe, N.J. “When they enter into our program, they stay with us for three days. They learn coping skills and take classes throughout the day, but they also get an adequate amount of sleep. The program is designed to get the servicemember feeling healthy again and give him some tools to cope with stress.”

    Timmy attends the classes with the servicemembers and plays with them afterward.

    “Using dogs as part of a therapeutic medium helps people relax. There are some studies out that show just petting a dog can reduce your heart rate, which reduces stress,” Schillreff said. “Having a dog really opens up the door for us and gives us another way to connect with the servicmembers, making them feel a little more comfortable.”

    U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Penny Barker, a 27-year-old medical technician with the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing and a native of Corunna, Mich., is on her third and final day of the FRC program.

    “I love the program. I actually have had some bad experiences here in Afghanistan. It’s nice to come here and relax,” said Barker, who is stationed at Dover Air Force Base, Del. “I’ve been able to get some sleep, relax with Timmy. I’ve learned some coping mechanisms for things like reoccurring bad dreams.”

    Barker has been involved in several traumatic events since she arrived in country in March, which she didn’t want to discuss. She works inside a trauma center dealing with injuries and death on an almost routine basis. She volunteered for the program after she had to treat a friend of hers.

    “I go home in 25 days. I just want to make sure I ‘m going to be able to sleep when I get home,” she said.

    Timmy has had a huge impact on Barker during her stay at Bagram.

    “I love just petting him. It’s nice to have him to love on and to have the unconditional love back,” Barker said. “Just makes you forget you’re in Afghanistan.”

    “The program and Timmy are here to help people,” Schillreff said. “We are more than willing to come out to units and teach them about stress and ways to cope. Timmy loves to go out and meet new people.”

    There are currently 11 combat stress centers across Afghanistan’s Regional Command-East. To be entered into the FRC program, a servicemember needs to go to the nearest combat stress center or the chaplain to get the referral process started. The member’s chain of command needs to be aware of the request and approve of releasing the servicemember to the FRC at Bagram for three days.



    Date Taken: 08.13.2010
    Date Posted: 08.13.2010 16:29
    Story ID: 54545
    Location: BAGRAM AIR FIELD, AF 

    Web Views: 254
    Downloads: 9