News: Combat Stress unit recovers from tragedy to help others in Iraq
Story by Capt. Efrem Gibson
CAMP TAJI, Iraq – An Army medical detachment hit hard by the shootings at Fort Hood, Texas, last November, is now in Iraq providing mental health support to deployed soldiers.
The 1908 Medical Detachment (Combat Stress Control), a U.S. Army Reserve unit from Topeka, Kan., was at Fort Hood preparing for deployment when Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan killed 13 soldiers and wounded 30 others inside the Soldier Readiness Center. Two of the CSC soldiers were killed, and five were injured.
Having dealt with that traumatic experience, the unit is now deployed to Camp Taji, Iraq, assisting other soldiers who need help handling stressful situations.
The CSC is working in the Taji Warrior Resiliency Campus, a facility that addresses the five dimensions of a soldier’s health: physical, emotional, spiritual, social, and family. The campus was built by the Enhanced Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Infantry Division with the goal of emphasizing Comprehensive Soldier Fitness, the Army’s program that provides tools to help soldiers cope with stress and deployment, as well as develop the ability to bounce back from adversity.
The CSC is comprised of a psychologist, nurse practitioners and mental health technicians headed by Maj. Hilario Pascua. The unit provides treatment to maintain the mental and behavioral health of Soldiers, and helps prevent future problems. Mental health falls under the “emotional” pillar of Comprehensive Soldier Fitness.
Pascua said that soldiers mostly visit the CSC for help with problems related to home, like marital and child issues, work related issues involving leadership, and difficulty adjusting to life in a deployed environment. The CSC also treats Soldiers with problems stemming from their experiences in combat on previous deployments.
Some leaders are reluctant about Soldiers going to the CSC believing that after visiting the center, their soldiers will not finish the deployment, said Pascua.
“Our role is not to take soldiers away,” said Pascua. “Our role is to strengthen soldiers to keep them here.”
Many Soldiers are also worried about going to the CSC, fearing there will be no confidentiality. Anyone who voluntarily visits the CSC and are not diagnosed as being a danger to themselves or others, have complete confidentiality.
While everyone is encouraged to visit the CSC if they need to, Pascua said soldiers can also turn to Family, friends, and their chain of command for help with stress.
“Our strategy is to strengthen their social support,” said Pascua.