KANDAHAR, Afghanistan – Members of the 113th Combat Stress Control Unit, based out of Garden Grove, Calif., currently stationed at Kandahar Air Field’s Troop Medical Clinic, use numerous modern techniques to handle issues that have plagued warriors as long as there has been war. The 44 person unit has been in Kandahar since the middle of the summer. They are already making quite an impact.
“Everybody is stressed in a war zone,” said Col. David D. Rabb, of Mountain View, Calif., and unit commander for the 113th. “The question is, how are you gonna deal with it? Stress is a silent enemy. It will take you out,” Rabb said.
The unit is not just here at KAF. They have two-to four -man teams established throughout Regional Command South RC(S) in order to help service members deal with some of the issues created by war.
According to an April 2008 Science Daily report, nearly 20 percent of vets who return home from Iraq and Afghanistan are likely to suffer from PTSD.
“About 80 percent of what we do is focused on prevention. About 20 percent is treatment,” Rabb said.
According to Rabb, exposure to combat, concerns at home, and peer-to- peer relationships are the three major issues that soldiers in theater are trying to handle.
The last issue is something that one soldier here knows all too well.
Pfc. Courtney S. Peaugh, of Henderson, Ky., an aviation technical supply specialist for the 159th Combat Aviation unit of Fort Campbell, Ky., was on her second deployment in less than three years when anger started taking its toll.
“I was having a lot of issues when I first got here. They just all sort of rolled into one,” said Peaugh. “I couldn’t deal with it anymore.”
Peaugh said she sought help elsewhere, but the people at the Troop Medical Clinic really made a big difference for her.
“Everyone is friendly here,” said Peaugh, “no one ever really makes you feel like you are burdening them. “
She said that a new non-commissioned officer in her unit made a big impact on her when she actually escorted her to Role 2 and sat in on her first session. After that first time, it just got easier for her to come here, she said.
Sometimes Peaugh will just stop by Role 2 and chat with staff from the 113th, even if she doesn’t have a counseling session.
“They all talk to me and ask how I am doing. It’s awesome,” she said.
Sgt. 1st Class Jose A. Chavarin, a Los Angeles native, the non-commissioned officer-in- charge of the unit, described some of the multiple tools used by the 113th in order to help soldiers.
They have smoking cessation and sleep hygiene classes. The unit uses a therapy dog, Sgt. 1st Class Zeke, to help service members open up in therapy sessions. Zeke is even used for physical therapy at the Role 3 Hospital located just down the road from the clinic.
Chavarin is also the head of the unit’s tele-behavioral health program. Therapists use Skype throughout RC(S) to reach soldiers in remote locations so they don’t have to come to KAF.
“The sooner they get help, the better off they are,” said Chavarin.
“The thing that soldiers need to understand is that a lot of what they are experiencing is normal,” said Chavarin, “they’re dealing with normal reactions to abnormal situations.”
According to Chavarin, some leaders are hesitant to send their soldiers to get help. They are concerned about losing a soldier when they send them to behavioral health.
Support from leadership could be one of the most important parts of the process of helping these soldiers. Data suggests that it can be hard for people to get help for combat related mental issues.
At the time the Science Daily report was issued, the RAND Corporation found that only slightly more than half of those who needed help sought it.
“Those soldiers need to come see us, and we are gonna do our best to get that soldier back to them (leadership) as soon as possible,” he said.
Chavarin suggests that a soldier who is not getting help is not combat effective anyway, so units are really a person down as it is.
“We are working to keep people in the game,” added Rabb. He said that getting those soldiers back to the mission was one of the unit’s top priorities.
“These guys helped me out more than I could have asked,” said Peaugh. “They helped me realize things about myself that I thought I could never solve or ever get through. I wish there were more people like them in the Army.”