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Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

Does the present military have a decompression time for soldiers right from the front lines?

Asked by Hypocrisy_Central (21138 points ) December 1st, 2010

Why is there no decompression time for returning vets? It seems you are in the field killing people on Monday afternoon and by Tuesday evening you are stepping off the jet in Hometown USA somewhere. I spoke to some WWII vets who talked about being debriefed and decompressing on a base somewhere for at least a week before you were discharged back to civilian life. Is the military that broke that it wants to boot these young people out so quick? Can one go from efficient killing machine to factory floor or sales floor like flipping a switch? Can they just put down sleeping with one eye open and both ears at the ready and stressing over every parked car at the side of the road or every motorcycle by the food stand to complete calm? When taking some young man from shooting and being shot at near daily to any street USA how long should he be given to ”unwind, calm, and decompress”?

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10 Answers

Zyx's avatar

I think anyone will tell you there’s really nothing to be done.
All the stuff you come home with doesn’t go away after a week or a year, it never does.
That’s the price.

EDIT: I probably don’t know shit though.

JilltheTooth's avatar

Your Q is “Does the present military have a decompression time for soldiers right from the front lines?” then your first line in the details is “Why is there no decompression time for returning vets?”
Discrepancy, much?

rts486's avatar

It depends. I’ve done many deployments all over the world, to include combat in IZ and AF. On some we had several days to decompress and on another one I was standing on my front porch within 24 hours of leaving the theater. The decompression time really helps I think, But @Zxy is right in that it won’t solve everything. My best decompression time was when I left a theater and our boss arranged it so we could have a lay over in a European city for a long weekend. We just ate, drank and slept for the weekend.

@Hypocisy_Central, you’re correct in that it’s not fair to expect these young guys to go straight from killing people and viewing everybody outside your unit as a threat, to acting civilized back in the States. I was in Thailand when a Marine Expeditionary Unit aboard Navy ships did a port call on their way home from Iraq. These guys had been in combat in Iraq for about six months straight, no breaks. All they wanted to do when they came ashore was get drunk and get laid. Some American in Thailand and officers in the higher HQ back in the States were shocked the Marines and Sailors were drinking excessively and cavorting with the local girls.

marinelife's avatar

I wonder why they don’t. They should have learned that lesson from Vietnam.

Seaofclouds's avatar

I think some of it is because of families (at least for the married soldiers). Some soldiers are away from their family for a year or more and it’s a matter of reuniting them. The families are given redeployment briefings now that tell us what to look out for, what to expect (like the soldier reacting to a backfiring car or someone sneaking up on them), and the rules the soldiers are suppose to follow (like no driving for 48–72 hours, no drinking right away (not sure how many actually listen to that), etc). We’re told signs of PTSD and given suicide awareness information. We are also told not to really ask about what happened over there, instead let the soldier open up with what they want, when they want to do it. I think preparing the families has a big part in it as well. I’m not sure what they told families back when soldier were returning from Vietnam and other wars, but I would imagine it’s changed a lot since then.

They also do reintegration training once they get home. If you asked my husband and some of the soldiers in his unit (they’re all married so it may be different from what the single soldiers would say) what they wanted to do, they would say they just want to get home and away from the other soldiers they’ve been stuck with for the past year.

Just for an idea of what’s going on with the units here (some posts do it differently). Basically, when my husband gets home, he will get a 4 day pass so he can rest. Then he will have to go to reintegration training for about 2 weeks. After that he gets 2 weeks of leave, then another 2 weeks of reintegration, then an optional 2 more weeks of leave for those that want it. They use to come home and instantly go on a 30 day leave, but this post decided the reintegration training is more important and they believe it could help cut down on that amount of domestic issues within that month of leave.

iamthemob's avatar

I never thought about this – thank you for bringing it up…

JilltheTooth's avatar

@Seaofclouds : I’m glad to hear that it’s much more comprehensive than most of us realized. Thank you. Wish I could have lurved you more!

marinelife's avatar

@Seaofclouds Glad to know they are doing something!

YARNLADY's avatar

I believe they can request it.

Ron_C's avatar

When I left ‘Nam, there wasn’t even a time for showers, I was still in my greens (I was in the Navy) when we boarded the MAC flight home. In fact, I didn’t have any regular Navy uniforms because they rotted on the ship where they were stored.

Other than my wife and family, nobody in the country was glad to see us. I decompressed by having 30 days leave and then getting on a guided missile destroyer for a nine month Med cruise. It turns out that I was one of the stable ones over there. I had a marine Shore Patrol partner that just wanted to go out and ” kill some gooks”. I asked him, “do you know where you are?” He said yeah, Italy. “Then who are the gooks?” “Anyone that’s not a white American”, was his reply.

I spent many a worried nights keeping him from hurting sailors, marines, and locals that didn’t meet his standards until I finally got him relieved and psychological help. That is what happens when you take a high school kid, feed him full of macho crap, then dump him in a war zone. Debriefing and decompression are necessary. I still feel guilty for coming back with only very minor wounds. I refused a Purple Heart because they should be reserved for the truly damaged, physically and emotionally.

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