National Guard Troops Getting Help Readjusting To Civilian Life

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(Host) Many of the 1,500 Vermont Guard soldiers who were deployed to Afghanistan earlier this year are returning to Vermont this week. 

Adjutant General Michael Dubie says they’re already receiving support to readjust to civilian life. 

VPR’s Jane Lindholm reports.

(Lindholm) The vast majority of the Vermont soldiers deployed to Afghanistan are already on their way back to Vermont.  Several hundred are at a military transit point in Kyrgyzstan and hundreds more are already at Camp Atterbury in Indiana.  Only about 50 soldiers remain in Afghanistan.  All of them should be back in Vermont by Christmas.

Adjutant General Michael Dubie says as soon as they get to Camp Atterbury, the soldiers spend five to seven days undergoing a methodical "demobilization" process that’s designed to assist them when they get back to Vermont.

(Dubie) "Evaluations, medical screening, mental health/emotional screening, things like that.  And then also just talking about things like how to sign up for VA benefits.  We’ve got some job information because some people are going to come back without a job."

(Lindholm) Dubie says despite the fact that soldiers in this deployment faced less combat overall than in previous deployments, that doesn’t mean concerns about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder have diminished.

(Dubie) "The trigger for PTSD can be different for different people.  Even the people that were, say, on the middle of a base, those bases still were exposed to attack, to mortar fire, to convoys, and that’s really the problem with the conflicts that we’ve been fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan is there is no clearly identified front line where you’re either in the combat or you’re not."

(Lindholm) Once all the soldiers have been demobilized and are safely back in Vermont, the guard has no current orders to redeploy troops to Afghanistan.  Most of the Guard will go through what in military terms is called "dwell time"-time at home not in combat.  Dubie says this will allow the Guard to get back to basics.

(Dubie) If we have more dwell what we’re going to things that are important to Vermont.  We right now have the only mountain-coded brigade in the entire US Army infantry.  So one of the things that we’re going to focus on is going back to mountain training.  And take this time to really do our normal core mission training that really, because of the deployment, we didn’t have time or the luxury to do that.

(Lindholm) Dubie says the guard will also be cutting back in both staff and expenses.  The current budget is $225 million and will likely be cut, but he doesn’t yet know by how much. 

For VPR News, I’m Jane Lindholm.

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