War on Terrorism

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Control Center Staff Seeks to Defeat Combat Stress in Iraq

By Army Capt. Stephen C. Short
Special to American Forces Press Service

May 28, 2009 - Fighting a war can be stressful, no matter what job you do in the military. Staff members at combat stress control centers throughout Iraq work to fight stress — or at least to teach people how to manage it. Air Force Lt. Col. (Dr.) Alicia L. Tschirhart, a psychiatrist, commands the Kalsu Combat Stress Control Center. The center is one of three throughout Iraq, each of which serves a number of provinces.

"We are able to see any servicemember that is stationed at Forward Operating Base Kalsu and anyone who needs assistance is sent here to this location," Tschirhart said. "I have two enlisted personnel here as well that do individual counseling, screen patients and do outreach to the community."

The Kalsu Combat Stress Control Center staff sees 25 to 30 patients a week with issues ranging from anxiety and depression to marital problems.

"Relationship and sleep issues are the most predominant cases I see," Tschirhart said. "Problems that arose during deployment or were occurring back in garrison can be related to issues that we work on."

Confidentiality is important to patients, and coming to the center is voluntary unless a soldier is sent for a command-directed evaluation. Some soldiers worry about a lengthy evaluation or treatment that could cause them problems at work or bring out their personal life to the command, but Tschirhart said they shouldn't allow these fears to keep them from seeking assistance.

"For the most part, a soldier is treated right here at Kalsu with little interruption to their work schedule," she said. "We try to protect the patient's confidentiality as much as possible."

Air Force Master Sgt. Dolores Ross, 733rd Expeditionary Support Squadron, is available to work with servicemembers on anger management issues and holds scheduled sessions. Tobacco cessation assistance also is available at the center.

Tschirhart said people shouldn't hesitate to seek help. "For the most part, thoughts of harming themselves or others passes with time," she said. "Most people just need assistance in managing their thoughts, and we do offer therapy as well as prescription medicine treatments."

(Army Capt. Stephen C. Short serves with the 172nd Infantry Brigade.)

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