By Alicia Lacy
Fort Hood Herald
Known as the "stress busters," soldiers with the 1st Medical Brigade's 85th Medical Detachment deployed Saturday, but not before a farewell ceremony at Fort Hood Thursday.
A combat stress control unit, the soldiers' mission is to provide mental health and stress relief to deployed soldiers coping with issues involved with deployments.
For one year, the soldiers will use therapy dogs to give deployed soldiers something to remind them of home and as a way for the soldiers to begin opening up.
Once in Iraq, the soldiers will split off into teams and visit units or have units visit them, whichever works for that unit.
Capt. David Dougherty, one of the primary handlers with the detachment, said, "Soldiers love to see something that reminds them of home," he said.
The dogs will don the unit's patch so it's a part of the unit.
Dougherty said the soldiers can pet the dogs and it helps to relax them and sets the atmosphere for them to open up about any challenges.
Staff Sgt. Darius Cox used the therapy dogs on a previous mission witnessed how the therapy worked firsthand.
Cox said the dogs will go to the person who seems stressed out the most and put its paw on that person or jump on their lap, something he said he saw almost everyday when he was in Iraq.
"That person will open up and smile," he said. "It's an icebreaker."
Lt. Col. Jennifer Robison said occupational therapists, social workers, psychiatrists and psychologists will deploy to meet the needs of the soldiers in Iraq.
Soon the war in Iraq will change names to Operation New Dawn as the U.S. military's presence in Iraq begins to decrease.
Lt. Col. Lee Roupe, commander of the 1st Medical Brigade said, though there will be a draw down of soldiers in Iraq, it "doesn't remove mental stresses a soldier undergoes while deployed. Some soldiers may be subject to exposure."
The dogs are bred, trained and were donated to the Army by America's VetDogs: The Veteran's K-9 Corps, information from the brigade states.
America's VetDogs, which was created by the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind, also provides guide dogs and service dogs for wounded veterans.
Contact Alicia Lacy at email@example.com or (254) 501-7559. Follow her on Twitter at KDHfeatures.