KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – A new proactive approach tool conceived by a Kandahar province chaplain – the Warrior’s Huddle – promises to help alleviate the stresses soldiers face when redeploying and ease the transition back into life on the home front.
Devised by Combined Task Force-Arrowhead chaplain Maj. Edward Choi, the Warrior’s Huddle was one of the major concepts discussed during Arrowhead’s Sergeants Major and Religious Support Team’s Conference here August 1.
The Warriors Huddle principle emphasizes the creation of platoon and section support teams guided by young non-commissioned officers, ideally squad and platoon leaders.
Within the small, close-knit teams, soldiers are encouraged to share their stories, concerns and challenges. During the huddle, discussions surrounding a soldier’s responsibilities, experiences and future goals are often broached.
“There is no one better to assist a soldier with post-deployment issues than a fellow warrior,” Choi said.
“Warrior-to-warrior, the Warrior’s huddle can provide an opportunity for individuals to share their struggles and receive advice from peers who know the soldier personally and are familiar with combat-related issues.”
Choi, the senior chaplain in the task force, came up with the notion of a Warrior’s Huddle in 2007 after reading Tom Brokaw’s book “The Greatest Generation.” While reading the book, it dawned on Choi that the month-long trip home via ship most troops took home after the conclusion of World War II gave them an opportunity to speak in depth with their fellow troops and decompress before arriving stateside.
Task Force Command Sgt. Maj. Samuel Murphy said the Warrior’s Huddle made perfect sense.
“It’s always been difficult for many soldiers to open up and talk about their feelings,” Murphy said. “The Warrior’s Huddle is a great avenue for soldiers to talk amongst themselves. Soldiers will talk to the young squad and platoon sergeants who do take care of their soldiers.”
The Warrior’s Huddle was only one of several tools discussed by the more than 30 sergeants major and chaplains in attendance at the proactive conference designed to give senior enlisted leaders and chaplains some initial behavioral-health tools to assist the task force’s approximately 7,000 soldiers as they transition back to their home base at Joint Base Lewis-McCord, Wash., within a few months. The soldiers in the Task Force are composed of troops from 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry.
Another key concept discussed in detail was comprehensive soldier fitness for redeployed troops. Choi underlined the importance of all aspects of well-rounded fitness including physical, social, family, spiritual and emotional well being.
“We are taking a holistic approach to comprehensive soldier fitness,” Choi said. “Every aspect of fitness must be addressed in order for soldiers and families to deal with combat-related issues.”
Choi said it was unlikely statistics revealing the effectiveness of the Warrior’s Huddle concept would ever be available, but he recalled some interesting facts about a battalion that incorporated the huddle upon its redeployment from Iraq.
Choi said there were two battalions of the same size in the same brigade that participated in the troop surge in Iraq from 2006 to 2007. After redeployment from Iraq the battalion that used the Warrior’s Huddle upon redeployment suffered two suicides; the battalion that didn’t include Warrior’s Huddle in its redeployment process incurred nine suicides.
“The Warrior’s Huddle helps us identify high-risk soldiers who we can help before they harm themselves and it leads to a reduction in serious post-deployment incidents,” Choi said. “It’s proactive versus reactive, because by the time a soldier seeks the support of a chaplain or behavioral health specialist, it’s sometimes too late.”
Murphy said he was highly satisfied if just one individual’s life was improved by the time and energy spent at the conference.
“We are being proactive about our re-deployment and if this conference and the ideas and concepts shared save one life, it’s all worth it,” he said.