PARWAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Ghouse Loynab, human terrain analyst with Human Terrain Team, TF Red Bulls, takes notes as he talks to a villager about governance and development issues Feb. (click for more)
PAKTYA PROVINCE, Afghanistan – U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Clint Koerperich of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, squad leader for 2nd Platoon, Company C., 1st Battalion, 168th Infantry Regiment, patrols with ANA soldiers (click for more)
PAKTYA, Afghanistan – Gheiratullah, an Afghan medical soldier, practices self aid and buddy care at the Paktya Regional Medical Center Feb. 13. (click for more)
PAKTYA PROVINCE, Afghanistan – U.S. Army Spc. Crystal Sims (right), from Duncan, Okla., a project manager for the 2-45th Agribusiness Development Team, assists an Afghan with registering at the bidder’s (click for more)
PANJSHIR PROVINCE, Afghanistan – U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Ashlee Lolkus, TF Red Bulls, shows Rohubza Dousti, a trainer and supervisor at the United Nations Habitat and a Panjshir youth group (click for more)
GHAZNI PROVINCE, Afghanistan - Ghazni PRT members walk among the locals engaging in conversation during a village assessment in Touheed Abad in Ghazni Province Feb. 6. (click for more)
KUNAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Haji Hazrat Ali Gull, a fruit producer, explains improvements he already made to a proposed orchard training farm site he owns to U.S. Army Master Sgt. (click for more)
LAGHMAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan - A team of Kiowa helicopters provide overhead security for U.S. Army Soldiers from Company A, 1st Battalion, 133rd Infantry Regiment, and Afghan National Army Soldiers from (click for more)
PAKTYA PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Mohammad Masood, Paktya Agricultural Department advisor, and U.S. Army Col. Robert Roshell, 2-45 Agribusiness Development Team commander from Lawton, Okla., examine spices during a mission to (click for more)
KUNAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan – U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Lynn Redman of San Antonio, Kunar Provincial Reconstruction Team nurse practitioner, examines a female Afghan patient with Afghan Dr. Ismat Shinwary, Asadabad (click for more)
PAKTYA PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Combat stress is one of the most lethal enemies that members of the armed forces must face. Members of the Combat Stress Clinic are working throughout Afghanistan to defeat this enemy.
U.S. Army Lt. Col Thomas Stokes of Glenshaw, Pa., leads a team dedicated to helping service members cope with the stress of combat and increase their efficacy on the battlefield.
“My objective is to maintain the fighting strength,” said Stokes.
Stokes said he recognizes each person he treats is faced with a different set of stressors depending upon where they are in the deployment cycle.
“I treat every person who walks through my door as a unique individual,” said Stokes. “Our treatment is not, ‘one size fits all.’”
Service members deployed for their first time must adjust to life in a foreign environment and help their loved ones to adjust to their absence. Those returning to the U.S. often feel both joy and anxiety as they prepare to reintegrate into home and Western society.
“Often, re-establishing the roles of father or mother are difficult,” said Stokes.
Professionals serving at the combat stress clinic are not waiting for servicemembers to walk through their doors.
“The key to what we do in combat stress is to be proactive,” said Stokes. We take our services to the Soldiers.”
Stokes said he sees partnership with the chaplaincy as a key to success. He and his team work closely with chaplains to help individuals to be spiritually and mentally fit.
One strategy used by the combat stress team is to bring service members with similar challenges together. Small groups allow service members to share their experiences and learn from each other. According to Stokes, facing traumatic events and discussing them is critical in the fight against combat stress.
“Soldiers need to understand that combat stress is a normal reaction to a very abnormal set of circumstances,” Stokes said.
Combat stress professionals help service members to see that that they are not alone in their experience. An important aspect of overcoming combat stress is an understanding that one’s experiences are not unique and that others are fighting similar battles.
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. David VanHoose of Eustis, Fla., has seen the effects of treatment firsthand.
“You can see the change in Soldiers,” said VanHoose. “Day by day you can see the relief in their faces and their posture.”
Stokes and VanHoose are passionate about the work they are doing and the positive affects upon the lives and careers of those that seek help. They are working hard to break down the stigma associated with mental health counselling.
Rumors which suggest that seeking mental health services can damage one’s career are false. On the contrary, neglecting mental health needs can often have career damaging consequences.
“If you are feeling overwhelmed and you don’t seek assistance, your actions may have an adverse affect on your career,” Stokes said.
Serving in a combat zone poses many challenges, but even the most horrific events can be a learning experience. Leaders who have faced stressful situations in combat are well-equipped to help their subordinates pass through difficult times and to assist family members who suffer in their loved one’s absence.
Those experiencing combat stress need not suffer in silence. Stress is a normal reaction to traumatic events. Seeking help for combat stress is no more a sign of weakness than is receiving treatment for a gunshot wound or a broken arm.
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