Not really sure if this is of interest to many here, but I hope some will find it interesting.

I recently was activated from the Army Reserves to go to Afghanistan, how ever due to events, I was pulled from the mission after 90 + days and "de-ramped". (basically the Army decided they did not want me on the mission, not for health or behavior reasons though.)

My last demobilization was in the early spring of 2008. (2002 was so long ago I don't remember much and what I do remember was a two day event of "sign here, here, and here")

I thought it would be interesting to compare the two and point out some of the changes that have come about.

A very long more after the squiggle.

First off, many things in my life have changed in the 5 years between.  

In 2008 I knew my employer was not going to hire me back (they had gone bankrupt), my old apartment was gone (literally, the land lord sent me a letter about three months before I was done to inform me the place had been damaged by a flood and been condemned and was to be torn down. But he did refund me my deposit - it was sub-leased out while I was gone), I had gotten promoted (needed to find a new Reserve unit), and I had gotten married and we had a kid.

The economy in 2008 was "good" as long as you were not paying attention.  Bubbles always look good, till they don't.  We kept hearing of people coming home and getting hired up the next day, or read news articles about how you can become a millionaire by flipping homes, etc.  Which was not true, as we all know in hind sight.

I was of the impression I was going to get back and find a job and go back to my happy normal ways.

2013 is much different.  I have a job that I had been hired for 6 weeks before I was called up, they put me on military leave and 12 hours after telling them I was home they had me back on the schedule.  We had moved to our new place just 8 weeks before being called up and the family was still there.  And we have 3 kids now.

The big differences in the two de-mob's are Health screenings, Behavioral screenings, Employment support, and transition assistance counseling.

Medical and Behavioral screenings have changed a lot.  I'm sure most of the later is due to the increased rate of suicides the military encountered the last few years.  Suicide awareness has been a big push by the Army for the last four years.  We have had on line training, new support programs, in person briefings, an investigation and reporting program to help ID causes and prevention options from any suicide or attempt.  The press may have been saying "the Army is doing nothing" but they were doing a lot and trying just about anything that made sense to lower the rate. About the only thing getting more attention than the suicide prevention efforts is general safety and Sexual Harassment And Reporting Process. (now "SHARP" is a monthly requirement, a mandatory evaluation item, and strict zero tolerance, Suicide prevention is a quarterly training now.)

In 2008 our Behavioral screening was a fill in the bubble answer sheet and a "Death by Power Point" presentation.  Then you go your stamp on your paper and off to the next station.  The presentation covered some key points like "don't abuse drugs or booze" and expect some problems getting back to civilian life.  I think there was an 1-800 number to call if you felt bad and you could go to the VA.

In 2013 before could leave the pre-mob site there were several baseline tests given, some of our Soldiers did not make it through the pre-mob Behavioral screening.  The Army only wanted to send the most resilient people.  And armed with some baseline data they could better spot changes.  The de-mob had individual interviews, group briefings, leadership briefings, small group presentations, reviews and presentations for all the groups and organizations not part of the Army that could help you as well as the Army programs.  

The presentations were as little as possible to avoid the "death by power point" effect, and were not presented as "check the box" or "you will know if you're ok or not".  Most were presented as "Your buddy could be having these issues" and "keep an eye on each other".  Which I felt was a better approach.  Military personalities tend to ignore their pain or feelings if they seem like weakness in oneself, but have a high level of wanting to protect and care for the other guy.

The Health screening was also just as intense in 2013.  Before we could depart you had to be as close to 100% healthy as possible.  I am sure a lot of it was money driven.  After 30 days on orders the military "bought" any health issues.  High blood pressure, high cholesterol, even that pain in your knee became "service related" if you were kept on orders more than 30 days.  Some units lost 15 to 20 precent of their initial force at the Health/Behavioral stage. (those Soldiers were replaced with last minute standby Soldiers, some with only 48 hours notice)

In 2008, unless you were injured or told the screening about health issues, you were presumed healthy.  If you did not declare it, you would have to fight with the VA to get it changed to "service related".  If you did declare it, you got moved to the end of the line, delayed, re-evaluated, questioned, etc. The bigger the issue, the longer you sat at the de-mob site, the longer you were kept from your family.  However, just say everything is fine, get your stamp and go home was an option for anyone because there were no questions asked if you said "i'm fine".  After all, why would you say that if you were not fine?

In 2013, it was almost a "prove you're healthy" stand.  Hearing, vision, and dental were big issues.  A complete review of your medial records was done, individual interviews conducted.  You were not getting out of medical in less than three days.  If you had issues, you got moved to the case manager who arranged rapid evaluation, which was sent up to the next level for review to make sure it was complete.

Leaders were given briefings and asked about their Solders.  (HIPPA does not apply to leaders - company commanders, platoon leaders, first sergeants and platoon sergeants)  After all we know them better than the strangers at the Medical screening.

Transition services was a new thing.  In 2008, it meant directions to the post office to mail out stuff you did not want to carry home and your plain ticket home.

In 2013, it meant many power point presentations, briefings, and leader break out sessions.  We got information on the VA, VA claims process, subsistence abuse, family reintegration, civilian transition, support groups, web based training options, "military on source", and many other support options.  

Leaders were counseled on how to help subordinates.  Subordinates on how to watch out for their buddies.

This was also tied in with the Employment support.  The Army Career & Alumni Program (ACAP) is a new effort with the Army. Started in 2009 it helps with turning your military training into civilian training.

In 2008 the Employment support was a question "do you have a job to go back to?"  If yes, your paper was stamped and you were on your way. If no, you had to attend a job fair.

I was a no.  Even though the law is very clear that your employer must take you back if you're deployed, if they go out of business you can't force them to hire you back.  So I went to the job fair.  There I found that my military training was everything the companies were looking for they did not want to hire me because I did not have civilian certifications.  Sure you are able to drive a 72 ton tracked vehicle, an 18 wheel tractor and lowboy trailer, have 2,000 hours on a D7 dozer, 800 on a D2 up armor dozer, but that does not count because you don't have civilian training.  But hey, just use your GI Bill to go through a 12 week course with no income, and then talk to us.

I'm sure that some of the we are not going to hire you was that they were heading into the job cuts but not making a big deal about it.  (We got lucky in that my spouse got a job, so we had her income to fall onto while I jumped through hoops trying to get full time work for five years.)

In 2013 they did not bother with "job fairs".  We had a three day financial budget class, a three day course from the Department of Labor on resume writing and interviewing, and a two day class on education option.  You could get out of the DOL class by getting your employer to sign a form that you had a job when you get back.  (this only applied to Army Reserve and Active Duty Soldiers, National Guard Solders have their own state programs - some of them anyways)

The big thing to me was the military, through the ACAP, has gotten a lot of colleges to accept military training as equivalent to course work.  In 2009 when I went to college after not being able to get full time work, I had to take a lot of classes that I could have taught because of my past training and military course work.  Today when I ran my career though the evaluation system I would walk into a college with 47 credits towards my degree.  Which would have saved about a year's worth of my GI Bill.

I walked out of the demobilization process better ready to get home and re-start my life, have a really nice resume and knowledge how to taylor it to get interviews, access to many support programs, more knowledge on resources to help my Soldiers, and better knowledge of the benefits i'm allowed.  I feel those who were de-ramped with me are better for the experience, and the ACAP system is doing follow up calls and letters with us for the next three to six months.

Not all these efforts are due to who is the President. But they have made efforts to help the Soldiers coming home.  I hope they keep track of all this and if/when we end up deploying for war again (or just deploying to Afghanistan for the next ten years as Pres. Obama wants in "support" operations) they will re-use these programs.

[Special thanks to the support team at Camp Shelby Mississippi for staying late to condense our out processing with out shorting the training so most of us could make it home the day before Thanksgiving.  Many spouses and families were very happy.)

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