Making the transition home easier

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Timothy Moore
  • 86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
The deployment comes and goes. New experiences have been had. Feelings, both expected and unexpected, have come up throughout the entire process. There may be uncertainty about how you will behave once you are back in the "familiar." Ready to go home, you are aware the journey isn't over just yet. You've been nominated to go to the Deployment Transition Center at Ramstein Air Base. The reason?

Since opening its doors in 2010, the DTC has hosted approximately 8,000 service members traveling from dangerous operations in theater to their homes with the intent to make the transition easier.

"This premier center of excellence is the only unit of its kind in the Air Force," said Lt. Col. Jefferson DeBerry, DTC commander.

Initially stood up to help Airmen from security forces, explosive ordinance disposal, tactical air control party and whoever else could be exposed to combat stress for prolonged periods, the DTC is now open to all service members and Department of Defense civilians who may exhibit negative metrics related to a deployment.

"When we are talking about negative metrics, we are looking at things such as post-traumatic stress disorder, alcoholism or domestic disputes," said DeBerry.

While certain Air Force specialty codes are pre-identified to attend the DTC after deployments, any member can be nominated by their deployed commander.

"Over time, the DTC has proven to be a game-changer in caring for our deployed personnel," DeBerry said. "Studies comparing those that have and have not attended the DTC have shown a decrease of 40 to 50 percent in depression, anger management, alcohol use, PTSD symptoms and serious conflicts."

The staff at the DTC is aware that stressors from deployments happen from the time members are notified until the time they leave their areas of responsibilities downrange and during the four-day program redeployers are given the chance to address those issues.

"We give them an opportunity to decompress," said Master Sgt. Brian Yannarelli, DTC medical corps mission set manager. "We offer them some time to vent and give us their opinions on how their deployments went from the time they were notified to the time they left the AOR."

On the first day, members arrive and are given the rules of engagement for the program. According to DeBerry, many of the redeployers choose to simply shower and relax in their private temporary living quarters, a luxury many have likely gone without for six months or more.

On the second day, redeployers are able to give candid thoughts about their experiences throughout the deployment during the After Action Report class.

The DTC then supplies a report based on that information to Air Force leaders and functional managers of their respective career fields.

DeBerry said the AAR is used to allow leadership insight on how to improve the deployment experience.

After the AAR, redeployers, DTC staff and volunteers take a trip to the German cities Heidelberg, Trier or Mainz. Members are allocated several hours to walk around the city, see the sights and taste the local cuisine.

"In that experiential outing, we get them into the local community and get them comfortable being around people again," DeBerry said. "They don't have to question their surroundings, whether or not someone is going to try to harm them."

On the third day, members attend the second class, the Combat Bridge.

"The Combat Bridge is focused on the four pillars of mental, spiritual, physical and social health," DeBerry said. "We try to make the connection between the things they did downrange to maintain their fitness to the things they can do at home."

After the Combat Bridge, redeployers are allowed to relax and enjoy their last night in Ramstein before they head home on the fourth and final day.

"The Air Force is very sensitive to make sure we have the time that is allocated to help them decompress as much as possible," DeBerry said. "Yet at the same time, we are very sensitive that they want to go home and be rejoined with their family members and loved ones."

For more information about the DTC, visit the DTC webpage located under the Fitness & Health tab on the AF Portal.