By Amanda Kim Stairrett
Fort Hood Herald
As 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment soldiers stream back to Fort Hood from Iraq, its rear detachment shifts into yet another phase: homecomings and reintegrations. While the focus was primarily on supporting the deployed units, training and shipping soldiers and casualty assistance operations, the rear detachment is now concentrating on the soldiers’ return, regimental officials said.
The rear detachment’s commander, family readiness support assistant and chaplain recently talked about their experiences and what’s to come for the regiment.
Lt. Col. Timothy Leroux, rear detachment commander
Since taking command of the rear detachment on July 17, 2008, Leroux has learned much, especially about the Fort Hood and local communities. Fort Hood “has just about any service or program that a soldier of family member could want,” he said.
“Since I’ve been the rear d commander, I’ve seen a number of soldiers and families dealing with a myriad of difficult issues,” went on to say. “In almost every case, Fort Hood and the surrounding community have had a program or service to tailored to assist those soldiers and families.”
If there wasn’t a program to help with a specific program, it was easy to find people willing to help, he added.
Deployments are often harder on those left behind than those who deploy, Leroux said, and that includes soldiers and the families. Before coming back to Fort Hood to take command of the rear detachment, Leroux served as a squadron’s operations officer. He said that his current position was more difficult than his previous, “no question.”
“I don’t think I was fully prepared for the emotional toll that this job would take,” Leroux said. “We’ve certainly had our fair share of crises and other very difficult situations to deal with.”
The lieutenant colonel’s time as rear detachment commander ends on March 27, after the soldiers return from block leave. He will go on to Charlottesville, Va., where he will serve as professor of military science at the University of Virginia.
Dana Allison, family readiness support assistant
Allison serves as the regiment’s top family readiness support assistant, providing help to the family readiness groups that keep soldiers’ loved ones intertwined before, during and after a deployment. She has served in the position since March 2005, shortly after the regiment deployed to Iraq from Fort Carson, Colo. The regiment moved from Colorado to Central Texas in 2006.
Not only is Allison a regimental staff member, her husband is a soldier in Support Squadron.
“I think being a 3rd ACR wife and 3rd ACR employee has both positives and negatives,” Allison said.
She’s nearly an expert on the regiment, having volunteered as a family readiness group leader since the regiment’s first deployment during Operation Iraqi Freedom I. Her husband has deployed with the regiment during all three of its rotations.
Being a wife gives her an advantage because it make her more passionate about her job, the regiment and supporting the families, she said.
“I can also relate to a family member who calls up in crisis because I’m coming at it from the same ‘wife of a deployed soldier’ point of view,” she said. “I also love that my husband is in the unit I work for because I have no ‘split’ loyalties, it’s all about 3rd ACR.”
But it can get tough because Allison is constantly surrounded by the regiment.
Allison has learned just how important it is to have a support structure for a family while its soldier is deployed.
“I’m always amazed and in awe of Army families and how we support each other even when we have nothing in common other than our loved ones are deployed,” she said. “I love the way Army spouses can automatically understand and will support each other like no one else can.”
Maj. Paul Dirksmeyer, chaplain
This isn’t Dirksmeyer’s first experience serving on a rear detachment. He’s spent time with the 4th Infantry’s and 1st Cavalry’s rear detachments and also serves as chaplain for the 41st Fires Brigade while its soldiers are deployed.
This deployment has taught Dirksmeyer that his inner resources are limited and that can have an adverse affect on how he can provide care.
“As the months grind on, my capacity for empathy, patience and selfless care start to deplete,” he said. “I’ve come to realize more and more these last few months just how critical ‘self-care’ is, and have taken measures to improve my health in mind, body and spirit.”
He’s also learned to take advantage of the resources at Fort Hood — everything from the Chaplain Family Life Center to the Military Family Life Consultants. Those agencies are true God-sends, Dirksmeyer said.
As the soldiers are reunited with their families, the chaplain expects to focus on what can be the tougher aspects of reintegrating. Dirksmeyer called it “crisis intervention” and it’s not limited to just married soldier or just single soldiers.
“It is an interesting adjustment,” he said.
Deployments are truly grueling upon families, Dirksmeyer said, and another difficult thing to come to terms with in the last few months is the “relational carnage that has occurred in marriages and families.”
Dirksmeyer’s duties as rear detachment chaplain will end when the regimental chaplain, Maj. Larry Holland finishes his block leave after returning from Iraq. Dirksmeyer estimated that would happen in March.
Contact Amanda Kim Stairrett at email@example.com or (254) 501-7547.