KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan - The 113th Combat Stress Control Unit moved into its new home at the Warrior Recovery Center at Kandahar Airfield in February. In addition to the new facility, the unit uses multiple methods, numerous forms of technology and service members from across different branches to fulfill their mission of keeping warriors in the fight.
One person who plays a key role in the mission of the 113th is Maj. Jessica M. Melchior, occupational therapist, 673rd Medical Group out of Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage, Alaska.
Melchior, who is originally from the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, has been in the Air Force for eight years. Asked why she chose her career field, the graduate of the College of St. Scholastica in Duluth, Minn., offers a pretty simple answer.
“I wanted to help people,” she said. “Occupational therapy itself has so many avenues of therapeutic interventions. You could work in a hospital or a clinic. You could work with kids, behavioral health, or a nursing home.”
Melchior wears many hats at the WRC. Her responsibilities include day-to-day clinic operations, evaluations, setting of target goals and conducting classes.
She says the most challenging part of her job derives from the fact that so many service members are dealing with so many different issues. Not only are many service members coping with the stress created on the battlefield, significant numbers are dealing with an array of other problems.
“It’s never a cookie cutter issue,” she said. “We’ve had sexual assaults. Some service members are dealing with problems at work or financial stressors and others are handling the effects of marital abuse.”
Despite its challenges, Melchior says the work can be very rewarding.
“When they have been here a few days they’re anxiety levels are down. They have calmed down and they are motivated to go back to work,” she said.
She said this isn’t the case for everyone but she likes to see the ones who are reset and ready to go.
In addition to her daily responsibilities, Melchior’s team said she serves other valuable roles for the staff as well.
“I really appreciate not only her professionalism and wealth of knowledge but her sense of humor and her personality are great for the team,” said Sgt. Paul M. McCollough, the non-commissioned officer-in- charge of the Warrior Restoration Program.
“She is super knowledgeable and very personable and that really helps,” he added.
Melchior hasn’t been with the unit for the entire deployment.
“I got here in Jan. My first month here was all prep,” she said.
With the opening of the new facility there was much to be done. They had to get the rooms set-up, establish the individual classes and determine who was going to lead each session.
Because she is on a 6 month deployment she will actually stay behind with the new unit when the 113th leaves next month. She thinks she will be able to help maintain some continuity during the transition.
“When they fall in we will already have the routines set,” she said.
Melchior has no problem tying the mission of the WRC directly to the front-line efforts in Afghanistan.
“In the past, if any behavioral health issue had come up, service members could have been on the next bird home,” Melchior said. Now, “the efforts of the WRC in general and the restoration program in particular helps keep service members in the fight.”