Leaders Discuss Afghanistan Redeployment Challenges

FORWARD OPERATING BASE SHARANA, Afghanistan, May 10, 2011 — Task Force Cur­ra­hee, com­posed pri­mar­i­ly of sol­diers from the 101st Air­borne Division’s 4th Brigade Com­bat Team, will return to Fort Camp­bell, Ky., in the com­ing months.

Forward Operating Base Sharana in Afghanistan's Paktika
Army Col. Sean M. Jenk­ins, com­man­der of Task Force Cur­ra­hee and the 101st Air­borne Division’s 4th Brigade Com­bat Team, speaks to the unit’s chap­lains and chap­lain assis­tants dur­ing a reli­gious sup­port team rede­ploy­ment plan­ning con­fer­ence May 6, 2011, at For­ward Oper­at­ing Base Sha­rana in Afghanistan’s Pak­ti­ka province.
DOD pho­to by Karen Par­rish
Click to enlarge

Dur­ing a May 6 rede­ploy­ment-focused con­fer­ence here that brought togeth­er the brigade’s sev­en reli­gious sup­port teams — each con­sist­ing of a chap­lain and chap­lain assis­tant — the brigade’s com­man­der and com­mand sergeant major out­lined the chal­lenges they expect as the troops move home and cope with their deployment’s after­math.

Army Col. Sean M. Jenk­ins, brigade and task force com­man­der, said the biggest chal­lenge is ensur­ing all 4,200-plus sol­diers get any help they need. For mem­bers of an air­borne infantry unit, it isn’t easy seek­ing help for post-com­bat stress or for per­son­al or domes­tic issues, the colonel said.

“Type-A per­son­al­i­ties, 6-foot-2 and bul­let­proof — most Cur­ra­hees put them­selves in that cat­e­go­ry,” he said. “We’ve got to break through that.” Respon­si­bil­i­ty for seek­ing need­ed care rests on the indi­vid­ual sol­dier, Jenk­ins said, but lead­ers at all lev­els have to ensure their sol­diers know there is no stig­ma attached to ask­ing for help and that they know what help is avail­able.

For 90 to 120 days after return­ing to Fort Camp­bell, the colonel said, sol­diers can expect a tough peri­od of adjust­ment. His plan is to edu­cate lead­ers down to the squad and team lev­el about how best to help their sol­diers make that adjust­ment.

As the deployed sol­diers return, new troops and their fam­i­lies will be arriv­ing, Jenk­ins said, not­ing up to 1,400 new Cur­ra­hees will begin assign­ments at 4th Brigade over the next sev­er­al months.

The reli­gious sup­port teams can help to edu­cate young lead­ers in how to help their sol­diers, and also can work with fam­i­lies and fam­i­ly sup­port groups, Jenk­ins said. Some of the reli­gious sup­port teams will rede­ploy ear­ly to help man­age the tran­si­tion as the troops return home, the colonel said, adding that he plans to main­tain a com­fort­able rhythm for sol­diers com­ing out of Afghanistan.

“We will go back, we will do the sev­en-day inte­gra­tion, and we will be in a bat­tle rhythm the entire time,” he said. Jenk­ins said he will main­tain reg­u­lar report times for duty and dai­ly phys­i­cal train­ing as sol­diers reset at Fort Camp­bell before unit block leave starts in Sep­tem­ber. This will give troops a rou­tine they’re com­fort­able with, and will help to estab­lish a nor­mal sleep cycle at home, he explained.

The mil­i­tary improves mis­sion per­for­mance not only through tech­nol­o­gy, tac­tics and pro­ce­dures, Jenk­ins said, but also through mind­set. Resources are avail­able to assist sol­diers in their return to gar­ri­son and fam­i­ly life, he added, but the mind­set they need is that it’s their respon­si­bil­i­ty to use those resources. “We want to be proac­tive back there, we don’t want to be reac­tive,” the colonel said. “It is a col­lec­tive effort.”

The brigade’s senior enlist­ed leader, Com­mand Sgt. Maj. William R. Ham­brick Jr., told the assem­bled reli­gious sup­port teams their work is crit­i­cal to the unit’s suc­cess. “We’ve been deploy­ing in this war on ter­ror for a long time,” he said. “We’ve been push­ing these sol­diers hard. But you are the peo­ple who advise the com­man­ders on the pulse of the com­pa­nies and bat­tal­ions.”

Return­ing home is a risky time for sol­diers, Ham­brick said. In the past, drunk dri­ving acci­dents and inci­dents of spouse and child abuse have spiked fol­low­ing Army rede­ploy­ments. “That’s because we let those sol­diers go with a high-five at the ramp when we got home,” he said. “We don’t do that any more.”

Sol­diers make the U.S. Army the best in the world, he said, and the effort the brigade chap­lains are putting into man­ag­ing rede­ploy­ment issues demon­strates how the Army “gets after an issue” to keep the force strong.

“When we put our minds to some­thing, we always suc­ceed,” he said.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

More news and arti­cles can be found on Face­book and Twit­ter.

Fol­low GlobalDefence.net on Face­book and/or on Twit­ter