LAGHMAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan - U.S. Army Capt. Jason Merchant, the company commander of Company A, 1st Battalion, 133rd Infantry Regiment, Task Force Ironman from Dysart, Iowa, hands out cards Dec. (click for more)
KUNAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan – U.S. Army Spc. Lauren Hyman of Texarkana, Texas, armored vehicle driver for the 64th Military Police Company based at Combat Oupost Fortress, says hello to an (click for more)
LAGHMAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan - U.S. Army 2nd Lt. Taylor Gingrich, an infantry officer from Cedar Falls, Iowa, with Task Force Ironman, draws a smile from an Afghan boy as Gingrich (click for more)
LOGAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan – U.S. Army Spc. Brian Stowe, a human resources specialist from Elkmont, Ala., with Task Force Knighthawk, 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, sings a ballad he wrote and (click for more)
PAKTYA, Afghanistan – Servicemembers defend the wall after an improvised explosive device detonates on Forward Operating Base Lightning Dec. 5. (click for more)
KAPISA PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Afghan and French military chiefs conduct a briefing before deployment during a security operation. Afghan National Security Forces and French Task Force Richelieu conducted Operation Montevideo (click for more)
PANJSHIR PROVINCE, Afghanistan – U.S. Air Force 2nd Lt. Phil Compton, Doty, Wash., Panjshir PRT engineer, and PRT local Afghan engineer Abid Wardak check the structural integrity of the retaining (click for more)
GHAZNI PROVINCE, Afghanistan – An Afghan family looks at their new family member after she was delivered by the Polish Army medical team at Forward Operating Base Warrior Jan. 3. (click for more)
KHOWST PROVINCE, Afghanistan -- Soldiers from 2nd Platoon, Company B, 1st Battalion 187th Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, maneuver through Sabari District during patrols to disrupt insurgent activity in the (click for more)
BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – U.S. Army Sgt. Shawn Fouste, Decatur, Ill., noncommissioned officer in charge of the Freedom Restoration Center with the 455th Expeditionary Wing, Task Force Med, plays with (click for more)
BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – “Before coming here, I was having more difficulty being myself and reacting like I normally would to everyday situations,” said U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Spencer Ledyard of Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C.
Ledyard had two months left in Afghanistan, meaning two months of difficult situations and the feeling of having lost himself. So, like more than 500 servicemembers before him, he accepted help from a place with a 97 percent success rate: the Freedom Restoration Center at Bagram Airfield.
Any number of hardships can drive servicemembers to the center. For some the problems may be temporary but for others the problems may be more long-term and can lead to even more problems, such as a loss of appetite, difficulty sleeping, and a tendency to avoid people. Eventually, these problems can affect job performance.
The main mission of the Freedom Restoration Center is to get servicemembers back to duty, said U.S. Army Capt. Jason Judkins of Greenbay, Wisc., officer in charge of the center and serving with the 455th Expeditionary Wing, Task Force Med. “So, when they go back—which is the expectation, back to duty—they have these new coping skills that they can use upon to facilitate completion of their duty.”
Getting people back to duty involves two things. The first is a series of classes on topics such as stress, anger management, sleeping and resiliency. Judkins said these classes are not designed to cure the problems of those in the center, but to provide the tools servicemembers need to deal with everyday issues.
“One thing we focus on is a warrior mentality. A lot of people think a warrior is just someone who wears a uniform and carries a weapon,” Judkins said. “Well it’s actually the mentality: What are they going to do? What’s going to be the thought process when things aren’t going the best? Are they going to kind of crumble, or are they going to be able to … get past that? You know, we all have that ability to be resilient, some of us just don’t use it.”
The second aspect of the center’s curriculum is relaxation. A typical day at the center always involves time for attendees to relax and have some fun. This includes games, television or, for those in need of some affection, Timmy.
Timmy is a golden Labrador retriever, one of two therapy dogs currently in Afghanistan and a coping tool for those at the center. U.S. Army Capt. Theresa Schillreff of Thuckahoe, N.J., OIC of outreach and prevention at the center with the 254th Medical Detachment, Task Force 62 Med, said simply petting a dog lowers the heart rate, reducing stress.
“Just seeing people interacting with the dog, you will see people’s personality change, their whole body relaxes, they’re smiling; they’re in a better mood once the dog leaves,” Schillreff said.
The work and relaxation has combined to produce positive results. Schillreff said the center has returned 97 percent of those who come to duty and has been able to improve the lives of those who even the staff does not expect to be able to help.
“We had one servicemember when we first got here, about March-April time frame, this really big, rugged infantry guy, just not the kind of guy you would think would do a program like this,” Judkins said. “He just had a stern look, didn’t smile, we were just like, ‘Wow, are we going to be able to help this guy out.’ And by day two he was like a big teddy bear. I mean, literally, he just opened up and, by day three, he didn’t want to leave.”
The same tools that helped this servicemember also helped Ledyard. With the course ending for him, he was able to look confidently ahead to his remaining two months in Afghanistan, now that he has some more tools to cope the daily challenges of life.
“The primary message of the course, as I understand it, is resiliency to be achieved through the phrase ‘I am in control of my attitudes and emotions and therefore I can deal with each situation by stabilizing internal and external conflicts,’” Ledyard said.
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|Afghan forces, TF Bastogne continue operations in Sherzad District|
NANGARHAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Afghan National Security Forces and Soldiers from 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, Task Force Bastogne, continued operations in the Sherzad District Jan. 8 clearing the village of Toto of insurgent fighters to reinforce a foundation of security in the area.
|TF Iron eliminates insurgent IED team|
GHAZNI PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Soldiers form Task Force Iron Rakkasan and members of the Afghan Uniformed police, using the Precision Threat Detection System blimp at Forward Operating Base Andar, identified a group of insurgents with weapons and explosives Jan. 3.
|TF Iron Rakkasan uses PTDS to prevent highway robbery|
GHAZNI PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Recently, Soldiers from Task Force Iron Rakkasan watched a member of the Afghan Uniformed Police conduct an illegal checkpoint on the route between Ghazni and Sharana. Using the camera system on the Persistent Threat Detection System, Soldiers observed a man standing in the road collecting money from vehicles. The practice is common by insurgents who fund their attacks by taking money from locals.
|Joint operation helps clear Sherzad of insurgent activity|
NANGARHAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Afghan National Security Forces and Soldiers from Task Force Bastogne began operations in the Sherzad District Dec. 23.