Task Force Teaches Mental Health Classes in Philippines
By Navy Lt. j.g. Theresa Donnelly
Special to American Forces Press Service
ZAMBOANGA, Philippines, Nov. 19, 2009 Members of the Camp Navarro General Hospital and the Joint Special Operations Task Force Philippines chaplain team concluded three days of teaching crisis intervention management techniques to more than 50 care providers at the Philippine armed forces Western Mindanao Command yesterday.
Air Force Master Sgt. Rose Gould passes out handouts during a psychological combat stress class at Camp Navarro General Hospital in Zamboanga, Philippines, Nov. 17, 2009. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Jose Castellonlopez
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
The classes focused on the hidden scars of the battlefield -- the psychological wounds that affect many servicemembers. Participants included hospital staff, volunteer Red Cross workers, Philippine soldiers and spouses of Marines in combat operations.
“Some of our deepest wounds of war are in our hearts, our souls and our minds,” said Col. Jose Johriel M. Cenabre, chief of staff for Western Mindanao Command. “We must find effective treatments for these wounds. We may not be wounded in violence, but wounded inside.”
The class was taught jointly by Camp Navarro General Hospital psychologist Lolina Necesario Bajin and task force chaplain assistant Air Force Master Sgt. Rose Gould.
Gould, an Air Force reservist, has more than 20 years of experience working with military trauma victims, and helping people in her civilian career deal with the impact of humanitarian crises, critical incidents and war zones at the Massachusetts Office of Refugees and Immigrants.
Seminars focused on several aspects of combat stress, from psychological first aid for manmade disasters to family crisis intervention. One seminar focused on how to explain to a child the appearance of their parents after being wounded on the battlefield.
The intent of the class, task force officials said, was to train select members who will then go back to their respective units and teach others. All participants received a packet with all the training materials, including copies of the lectures, videos and handouts.
This is the first time the joint special operations task force and the hospital staff have worked together for this type of training, officials said, adding that the team hopes to have more seminars to help those who provide care for others.
Many of the participants expressed their appreciation for the seminar and the help it has provided for them.
“We can now take what we have learned and conduct our own training … for all those who were unable to attend,” Bajin said. “This training is so important, because there is so much happening here in terms of disasters, armed conflict and manmade incidents, and we have to know how to effectively respond.”
At the course’s end, participants received graduation certificates and an increased understanding and best practices on how to treat the psychological effects of war effectively.
“It’s easy to identify and appreciate the sacrifice of soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen when they bear visible physical injury from the execution of their duty,” said Army Lt. Col. David Smith, the task force’s chief of staff. “However, it is much more difficult to identify mental injuries. The need to provide care to people with these types of problems is very real.”
At the request of the Philippine government, the joint special operations task force works in partnership with the Philippine armed forces in a variety of subject-matter exchanges, humanitarian missions and construction projects in the southern Philippines.
(Navy Lt. j.g. Theresa Donnelly serves with the Joint Special Operations Task Force Philippines public affairs office.)