Norwich Class Prepares Cadets For Deployment

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(Host) It’s likely no Vermont college is more affected by wartime than Norwich University in Northfield.

A number of the military university’s Corps of Cadets belong to the Vermont National Guard – and they’re preparing to deploy to Afghanistan. 

For some, part of that preparation has included taking a class to help them better deal with the changes they’re about to experience. 

VPR’s Steve Zind reports.

(Zind)  The idea to create her class occurred to Norwich Sociology professor Aimee Vieira one day, with one student.  The student had returned to school after being deployed to Iraq.  Vieira was talking with him in her office late one afternoon.

(Vieira) "They fire cannon here at five o’clock and this very first time he’s in my office the cannon goes off and he hits the deck.  That’s when I realized we need to take care of these folks and help them readjust."

(Zind)  Vieira says she’s seen the problems young cadets have when they return from deployment.  Many drop out.  Many have substance abuse problems.  She wanted to help ease their return.  The result is a class she’s developed called Disruption in Life. 

(Vieira) "Today you guys were supposed to do two readings for me.  Gut check:  did you do them?"

(Zind)  A number of the students in the class are going to Afghanistan.  Others have loved ones who are deploying

The subject on this particular day is marriage and how a deployment can accelerate a young soldier’s plans for marriage; out of a desire to have someone to come home to, and a need for stability.  The fact that the military is an institution where men far outnumber women also drives the desire to marry young. 

(Viera)  "It’s completely true.  It’s what we call the marriage market.  When there are fewer women available, marriage rates go up.  Any idea why?  They’re lockin’ it in.  Exactly!"

(Zind)  Marriage is the topic today, but the reading materials include wide ranging studies on how individuals respond to major life changes – with an emphasis on the military. 

The idea is to help the students think critically about how serving in the military and being deployed affect decisions soldiers make in their personal lives. 

Vieira knows what she teaching them won’t to shield them from the rigors of deployment. 

(Vieira) "I just want them as they go out to recognize, this is going to change me forever and that’s ok.  So when I come back, I’m going to feel disoriented, I may feel out of step. It’s not going to be the same as it was when I left.  That’s what I want them to take from the class."

(Zind) Justin Macura from Granville, New York and Jared Labello from Virginia will both deploy to Afghanistan with the Vermont National Guard.  It’s their first deployment.  They say they’ve seen the affect of war on returning soldiers. They hope the class will better prepare them.

(Macura) "Reading about the different studies, the case studies and everything, shows what people have gone through in the past.  It gives you a little insight into what to expect.  It might ease our way into it instead of being blindsided."

(Labello) "Just having the class, though, is a big deal because its like, ‘hey, we’re supporting you guys’.  It’s nice to get that pat on the back."

(Zind) Stacey Van Wickler’s long time boyfriend is in the Army Afghanistan.

She’s taking Vieira’s course to help her better understand the kinds of readjustment problems he might encounter.

(Van Wickler) "The number one thing I’ll tell him if he does experience those changes; I’m going to tell him if he wants to talk to me about it, I’m here and if not I’m definitely going to encourage that he talks to someone."

(Zind) Professor Aimee Vieira says members of the guard face post deployment challenges that fulltime soldiers don’t.  It’s difficult to move from the adrenaline rich environment of a war and return to work or school.  

For VPR news, I’m Steve Zind.

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