It has been almost one week since the final Iowa National Guard units returned from Afghanistan. Lieutenant Colonel Kevin Kruse helps soldiers make the transition on their return from active duty. Kruse says the approximately 2,800 soldiers are still technically on duty, but they are not working.
He says all the soldiers earned a minimum of 30 days leave, so all of the soldiers are on leave or vacation. Soldiers who had been deployed prior to the duty in Afghanistan may’ve earned up to 78 days leave before returning to their civilian jobs. Kruse says soldiers who have been deployed before don’t necessarily have an easier time in the transition back to Iowa.
Kruse says from what he’s seen, every deployment is a little different, and while some soldiers may know a little more about what to expect, the different type of duty could make readjusting different to handle as well. Kruse says soldiers have several sessions where they learn about what to expect before they get back, and now they are in the follow up stage.
Kruse says they try to make the leadership in the units understand what issues to look for in soldiers, but they really target families and friends because they see the soldiers throughout the month. He says unit leaders only see the soldiers a couple of times a month when they come in for drills. He says the success of a soldier’s transition back to civilian life may not be totally evident until their leave period is over.
Kruse says sometimes issues don’t come up until 30, 60 or 90 days after they are back because there is a euphoric reunion and honeymoon period when they get back from a deployment before issues start cropping up. Kruse says the help soldiers get now is much different than back in the 90’s after the Gulf War.
He says soldiers deployed to the Gulf, they returned home and had some medical checkups, but there weren’t a lot of resources available to the soldiers, particularly the reserves at that time. Kruse says that has changed.
He says since the beginning of the global war on terror, a lot of resources are not available that soldiers and their families can utilize. Kruse says they encourage family and friends to report any serious changes in behavior in soldiers after they return and settle in. He says they also work with the soldiers to get them to understand the importance of seeking out help if they need it.