Combat Stress Team Strives to Connect
By Army Sgt. Andrew A. Reagan
304th Public Affairs Detachment
PAKTIA PROVINCE, Afghanistan, April 7, 2010 Air Force Maj. Kim Floyd and Air Force Senior Airman Jessica E. Delgado just want to talk.
Air Force Maj. Kim Floyd speaks with Army Spc. Autumn L. Gregg at Forward Operating Base Lightning in Afghanistan’s Paktia province, April 1, 2010. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Andrew A. Reagan
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Floyd, a psychologist deployed from the 92nd Medical Group at Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash., and Delgado, a mental health technician deployed from the 5th Medical Group at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., make up the Combat Stress Control Detachment 1 here.
Since arriving in Afghanistan in January, the pair has operated out of Camp Goode and traveled regularly to the eight bases within the province.
Floyd and Delgado spend most of their time at each base simply getting to know servicemembers so they can break through the lingering stigma attached to seeking mental health care. Their goal, they said, is to develop a relationship with as many servicemembers as possible so they have a strong foundation to build on in case they have to tackle more serious issues.
“We want to be as available as possible,” said Delgado, a native of Lemoore, Calif. “We’re out there advertising ourselves. We’ll go around the [forward operating base], play pool with the soldiers and hang out with them. We try to have at least 100 contacts a week. A good portion of my day, for at least four hours, I’m out and about meeting people, just to see how they’re doing, see if there’s anything I can do for them.
“My job isn’t to sit behind a desk,” she continued. “My job is to go out and do outreach. I meet a lot of great people.”
Hand in hand with the duo’s mission to make themselves known are their efforts to address preconceived notions that many servicemembers have about mental health issues. Both Floyd and Delgado said that once they put those notions to rest, individual troops and higher commands are very accommodating of their efforts.
“The stigma is still out there,” Delgado said, “but we try to reach out to commands and let them know, ‘Hey, we’re not here to send your guys home, we’re here to make sure your guys can stay.’”
Floyd, a native of Ruidoso, N.M., said that approach is working.
“Once they get to know us and trust that we’re not going to send anyone home or take anyone’s weapon away,” she said, “they are more willing to talk with us about things that are concerning them.”
Floyd also said that the pair’s mission encompasses more than helping servicemembers cope with what is traditionally thought of as combat stress.
“Combat stress is probably a misnomer for what we do,” she explained. “A lot of people think combat stress is related strictly to combat, when in fact it’s stress related to being deployed, whether it’s issues on the home front, sleep difficulties, leadership frustrations, or peer relationships and interactions. Some people develop depression and anxiety disorders out here, and we treat that as well.”
Floyd expressed that she and Delgado are able to help their fellow servicemembers work through any issues they have, as well as her amazement at how resilient they are when times are tough.
“It’s very rewarding to be able to help improve morale, to support the soldiers, airmen and Marines and keep them in the fight,” she said. “So many of the soldiers we work with are so committed to their brothers in arms that they want to stay here even when they have issues going on at home. … They are often very torn. They want to be here and help their guys, but they want to be home and help their family. … I’m impressed by the people I’ve met, their desire to do a good job, and their commitment to each other.”
Delgado added that while working with servicemembers, she strives to focus on the final outcome instead of lingering on past events.
“There are those depressing moments, but why dwell on those moments when, in the end, people see them as experiences?” she asked.
“Most of the soldiers out here, if you talk with them, they’re going to be frustrated, they’re going to be stressed out, but at the end of the conversation, they’re going to feel that much less stressed out,” Delgado said. “That’s the part that matters, the end result. Not why they came into the clinic, but how they left. Usually, they leave pretty happy.”