As military operations continue in the Global War on Terror (GWOT), an estimated 1.6 million United States service men and women have deployed at least once since 2001, as part of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) in Afghanistan and/or Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). When a military member enters the deployment cycle, so does his or her family. This five-stage cycle includes: pre-deployment, beginning with an order for the upcoming deployment and continuing with specialized preparation and training and often conducted far from home; deployment, including travel to the designated theater and performance of the assigned mission; sustainment, during which family members establish new routines and feel increasingly confident about facing the challenges of ongoing separation; redeployment to the home station or demobilization station, which is usually a period of intense anticipation, excitement, and apprehension; and finally, post-deployment to home and reintegration with family and civilian routines. Each phase of this cycle has a unique set of stressors and requires significant readjustment on the part of the war fighter and his/her family. Each completed cycle may be followed by preparation for still another. Our all-volunteer force, their parents, partners, and children have respective strengths and vulnerabilities. Each serves in different ways at different phases of the deployment cycle. Families who successfully weather one phase may struggle in the next. The GWOT reverberates throughout the nation and across generations.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Harold Kudler, MD, is Associate Clinical Director, Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Mid-Atlantic Network Mental Illness, Education, Research and Clinical Center (MIRECC) on Post Deployment Mental Health and Associate Clinical Professor, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina. Kristy Straits-Tröster, PhD, ABPP, is Assistant Clinical Director, VA Mid-Atlantic Network MIRECC and Adjunct Assistant Clinical Professor, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Duke University.
Address correspondence to: Harold Kudler, MD, Durham VAMC, 508 Fulton St. (V6 MIRECC), Durham, NC 27705; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr. Kudler and Dr. Straits-Tröster have disclosed no relevant financial relationships.
- Identify readjustment issues for war zone veterans and their families related to the deployment cycle.
- Provide a rationale for Veterans Affairs/Department of Defense/State and Community Partnerships in support of returning war zone veterans and their families.
- Identify potential partners and actions in providing support and mental health services for returning war zone veterans and their families.