[ The Real McCoy Online Home ]                                                                                                                 February 13, 2009

Demobilization steps help Soldiers readjust to civilian life

By Tom Michele, The Real McCoy Contributor

Demobilization is the magic moment when a mobilized reserve-component Soldier comes home and steps off the aircraft to restart their civilian life.

Photo: Mitzi Hinton, an Army Career Alumni Program counselor and Army Reserve sergeant major, assists Soldiers from 109th Medical Battalion during demobilization. (Photo by Tom Michele)
Mitzi Hinton, an Army Career Alumni Program counselor and Army Reserve sergeant major, assists Soldiers from 109th Medical Battalion during demobilization. (Photo by Tom Michele)

Demobilization includes going through an average of five days of administrative, medical and dental screening, paperwork and briefings.

At Fort McCoy, it all begins at the Soldier Readiness Center (SRC) where Capt. Douglas Westbrook and his crew of contract and civil service employees help Soldiers transition back to civilian life. Westbrook serves as the officer-in-charge at the SRC.

"Our mission is to serve the best interests of the Soldier, to make sure the Soldier’s transition to civilian life is smooth, complete and accurate," Westbrook said.

"One of the most important records we work on with the Soldier is the DD Form 214, the validation of the Soldier’s active-duty service, with the dates they served, total active-duty time served and type of separation," Westbrook said. "It is used most importantly to certify their eligibility for benefits, such as health care, financial loans and education options, particularly with the Department of Veterans Affairs."

Lt. Col. Valerie Coleman, the SRC Medical OIC, said, "The most important thing about a Soldier demobilizing is their health. Our main objective is the Soldier is in good health upon demobilization and those Soldiers with injuries and, or, illnesses sustained or aggravated by their service are documented and properly taken of."

Coleman said, "Every demobilizing Soldier must go through the behavioral health section. Returning Soldiers can be depressed and despondent. Soldiers see and go through a lot during their deployment. They may be afraid or ashamed to talk about it. We have behavioral health counselors and psychiatrists here to help them."

Also at SRC Medical Section, Staff Sgt. Helena Michalak, the noncommissioned OIC, said, "Soldiers come through the SRC Medical to get blood tests and are screened for tuberculosis. They receive a Post Deployment Health Assessment, an audiology test, an optional optical test and will receive any immunizations to ensure their shots are up to date. Soldiers who have medical issues are referred to the Troop Medical Clinic for resolution."

Another SRC function includes scrutiny of the Soldier’s finance records to ensure they are correct.

Sgt. 1st Class Patrick Kite, the SRC’s noncommissioned OIC, said, "This includes calculation of leave days available through the Post-Deployment Mobilization Respite Absence, a Congressionally mandated policy for servicemembers involuntarily placed on overseas duty, to compensate them with extra administrative leave days and allows them to acclimate back to civilian life."

Soldiers also go through the Identification Card Section to update Common Access Card and the Defense Eligibility Records System (DEERS) data. DEERS is a computerized database that determines Soldier and family eligibility for health services, including TRICARE. Proper registration in DEERS is key to receiving timely and effective TRICARE medical and dental benefits and entitlements.

Demobilizing Soldiers also get a briefing with a military family life consultant that further acquaints them with the Army Community Service family support program.

Kite said, "There is an Army Career and Alumni Program (ACAP) set up for Soldiers in getting a job, writing a resume and ACAP identifying companies that prefer former military personnel. It creates enormous opportunities to the new veteran in finding a job or furthering their career by looking at other jobs. While at the SRC, Soldiers also may choose to talk with a retention NCO about their Army career and re-enlistment opportunities."

Soldiers are briefed by a legal officer to ensure they are aware of their legal rights, such as having a will, power of attorney and their legal rights in regard to re-employment with their former employers.

Both Westbrook and Kite also noted there are other elements in the demob process, beyond the SRC, particularly through logistics, the Mob Support Battalion, the Mobilization In-processing Center and the Personnel Administration Center.

"The demob process at the SRC is a chance for the Soldier to meet with representatives and get details about the benefits and options available to them, and make sure the Soldier is prepared to go back to civilian life when they step out the door and rejoin their families and civilian life," Westbrook said.

"We have the concern of the Soldier in mind, and we add the human touch to demobilization and their return to civilian life." Westbrook said. "This is the Army and the nation’s way of taking care of our Soldiers and their families."

(Michele is a public affairs specialist for Eagle Systems and Services Inc., contractor for CONUS Support Base Services.)


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