Welcome Home program helps returning Airmen with deployment stresses

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Travis Edwards
  • Nellis Public Affairs
Airmen returning from Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait or other areas involved in the Global War on Terrorism often find things have changed emotionally within their families, and they are confronted with the stresses of readjusting to their home-front. 

As a part of working through this readjustment, they are offered the opportunity to express their concerns, work through issues of family adjustments and learn to take things one day at a time, at the weekly "Welcome Home" program held at the Nellis chapel. 

On Feb. 14, 47 returning Nellis warriors spent two hours of in-depth discussions in the program on how to re-introduce themselves to their families, their friends and co-workers and their surroundings. 

Introductions and an overview briefing presented by Col. Christopher Haave, commander of the 98th Range Wing, started off the two-hour discussions by welcoming home the returning deployed members and thanking them for their contributions while they were deployed. 

"The purpose of these sessions is to raise the awareness level of potential hazards within themselves and their families or spouses, and giving them the skills to re-integrate into life at work and home," said Susan Robinson, flight chief for the Airman and Family Readiness Center. "It's important for them to understand the changes, some temporary and some more long-term, and how they can address these changes." 

For married military personnel, they were advised to expect to return home to different-responding spouses and that for the first few weeks in their homes they may be looked at as guests. 

"They should act like a guest," said Ms. Robinson. "We advise them to go slow, and if there are children, they need to understand their children's responses also. They may not be exactly how they were before they left." 

Behavioral signs were also addressed, and the attendees were told some of them may experience changes in eating and sleeping habits, or feel fatigue and lack energy. They were also advised that there could be signs of irritability, anger and even tears on occasion. 

"Taking care of themselves mentally, physically and emotionally and communicating how they feel to their spouse or significant others is extremely important," said Ms. Robinson. "Thinking positive thoughts and establishing realistic expectations of one another are also important." 

The attendees were given tips on how to relax at will by using a simple five-step approach. Progressive relaxation, deep breathing exercises, or breathing to a count, using imagery techniques and using scanning relaxation methods were part of the methods of learning to relax. 

"Good communications between families and other significant people in their lives is essential in the process of re-integration into their environment," said Ms. Robinson. "Talking, listening, understanding and being understood, while being understanding at the same time, are all part of the ways we help them work on." 

For those with spiritual beliefs, the group was also reminded of the benefits of spiritual exercises such as prayer or attending a chapel service. They also discussed intimacy between loved ones and the need to be open, honest and trusting, and continue to be patient with one another as they continue to evolve back into their sense of normal life. 

The Welcome Home program is an Air Combat Command mandated program for all installations in the command and anyone assigned to an ACC installation. The program is open to all family members. Nellis units can also request to have the program presented at their squadrons or operational facilities for their returning deployed members. 

For more information on the program, call the A&FRC at 652-3277.