After the battle: II MHG adjusts to garrison life

11 Jan 2006 | Sgt. Tracee L. Jackson

Marines returning from Iraqi combat zones have definite readjustments to make upon returning stateside. The II Marine Headquarters Group, II Marine Expeditionary Force here, is mitigating the culture shock of returning Marines through redeployment education.With a steady stream of Marines completing combat tours, II MHG anticipates each group’s arrival and stands ready to give all Marines a firm platform before they jump into everyday life. II MHG company gunnery sergeant, Gunnery Sgt. Thomas M. Kapla, explained that his company has developed a “decompression program” to address the physical and mental needs of warriors who are fresh from the fight. Whether the returning Marines are within their parent command or augments to II MHG, all ranks take five days to reflect on their recent transition. “We give the Marines quite a few classes, which is driven through direction from (the commanding general). Sometimes, Marines will bring stresses from the war zone back stateside,” he explained, “Basically, we’re slowly integrating them back into regular working hours and the whole idea of going to work and not having people shoot at you.”Kapla explained Marines returning from combat tours are given a long weekend immediately upon their arrival back from Iraq, but are instructed to stay within the local area. After the jetlag wears off, the Marines report to the II MHG building to begin processing back into garrison life. Along with administrative issues, the Marines go in for medical and dental checkups. Equally important is the redeployment training they receive.Most redeployment training carries heavy overtones of force preservation, and the redeployment briefs are, in simplistic terms, an extension of the robust force preservation program of II MEF. With their rifles stowed back in the armory, Marines receive refreshed reminders to be safe, healthy and law abiding. Marines are also given outlets to get information on issues from social adjustment to financial organization. Aside from standard safety lectures and turning in combat gear, redeployment briefs address difficult issues, such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and dealing with changes in family life.“We talk about different avenues to get help with stress-related issues,” said Kapla. “We tell them about the chaplain, medical, and (Marine Corps Community Service) programs for both them and their families that may be able to help them readjust.”“We tell Marines what to look for in themselves and in others. It puts them in the mindset to identify problems and get help if they need it,” said Kapla, noting the Marine Corps community is the first line of defense against combat-related angst. Lance Cpl. Henry W. Warner is a motor transport mechanic augmented to II MHG from 5th Battalion, 10th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, who recently completed a tour to 'the sandbox' and is now in the middle of his redeployment briefs.“The whole command (here) is different,” he said, noting that not only the environment of Camp Lejeune is more inviting, but that the culture and way Marines interact change as well. “You have to readjust to the whole garrison thing.”Warner is among his peers, superiors, and subordinates to have one last “coming-together” before charging head-on into life on American soil.“I can see how these classes can be helpful,” he speculated. “Someone might need the information later.”Through reinforcement of force preservation, administrative support, and thorough medical screenings, II MHG redeployment briefs gives the Corps' newest vets a running start back to the daily routine.