86th MSG DTC helps redeployers relax

The U.S. Air Force Deployment Transition Center, part of the 86th Mission Support Group, helps Airmen returning from deployment prepare to transition into non-deployed life. Staff at the DTC take the Airmen through a four-day reintegration course before they continue traveling to their home base. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Airman 1st Class Joshua Magbanua)

The U.S. Air Force Deployment Transition Center, part of the 86th Mission Support Group, helps Airmen returning from deployment prepare to transition into non-deployed life. Staff at the DTC take the Airmen through a four-day reintegration course before they continue traveling to their home base. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Airman 1st Class Joshua Magbanua)

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany -- Military members returning safely from a deployment generally come home to a happy occasion: smiling faces, balloons, flowers and warm embraces from family and friends.

However, reintegration into society may not be the bed of roses some “redeployers” may dream of; many things may have changed since the Airman has been gone, or issues that were not solved before the Airman left are still there are may have gotten worse. Whatever the case may be, these things can cast a dark shadow on what might have been a cheerful atmosphere after their homecoming.

That is why Airmen of the 86th Mission Support Group Deployment Transition Center are dedicated to helping wingmen relax and prepare for the process of immerging into normal life.

“The mission of the DTC is to support the redeployer by giving them decompression skills and reintegration opportunities,” Maj. Corey Carnes, DTC director said. “We’re not necessarily giving new skills … we’re reinforcing those same skills that you get in Basic Military Training, the First Term Airman Center and on wingman days.

“The DTC is in the enterprise of building human performance capital,” Carnes continued. “We focus on total wellness, so that every Airmen is physically energized, mentally engaged, socially connected, and spiritually grounded. These concepts are delivered through intentional reintegration skill review and practice, as well as decompression opportunities.”

There are two reasons for Airmen to pass through the DTC, Carnes said. The first way would be for an Airman’s career field functional manager to decide beforehand that they will pass through the DTC after deployment.

The second way is if the Airman’s chain of command on deployment makes the decision for them to go to the DTC on the way back to their home station.

“We previously only served career fields with higher risks of exposure to combat casualties,” Carnes said. “But now we are open to receiving Airmen from all Air Force Specialty Codes.”

The DTC takes Airmen coming directly from their deployment through a four-day reintegration program. Activities include; group discussions and trips in the local area called experiential outings. After the course, Airmen move on to their home station to reunite with their loved ones.

The experiential outings help redeployers get back in touch with common sights and sounds of a non-deployed environment, Tech. Sgt. Jessica Scott, DTC resiliency technician, said.

“Just the little things like being in a restaurant and hearing a baby crying helps them get used to the sounds and norms of a city versus a military unit in Afghanistan,” Scott said.

Even though the DTC has redeployers for a short amount of time, the staff try to give them as much information as they can without making their schedules hectic. The objective of the DTC is to help returning Airmen decompress as they head home, not bombard them with briefings, Scott said.

“We don’t fill up their time,” she explained. “We have them for approximately 72 hours, but only about 10 hours is time we control … after that, everything else is them making decisions about what they’re going to do. So they get to make decisions on their own at their own pace while having some structure to do so.”

In addition to specializing in helping redeployers transition smoothly back into a normal pace of life, another thing which makes the DTC unique is that much of the unit consists of members who are also deployed at Ramstein. Of more than a dozen Airmen assigned to the DTC, more than half come from another base.

Scott said enabling redeploying Airmen to pass through the DTC and relax on their way to their home base strengthens their ability to regain a normal pace of life.

“Even the people who are adamantly against being here … come out saying they feel better, they feel less stressed and they feel better equipped to get home and back into normal life,” Scott said. “To give them some coping skills, to remind them of the coping skills they’ve used previously and to help them manage those expectations so they get back on a better footing– you can’t beat that, I think everybody should come through here.”

Immersing back into society after a being down range for a long time is not easy, and life after deployment can be unpredictable.

However, there is one thing Airmen can expect if they pass by the DTC on the way home: a warm welcome from wingmen committed to helping them shake off the stress and gain the tools they need to get back to their normal lives.