In the midst of deployment life, active duty and reservists military personnel can undergo stress after stress due to a variety of reasons. Their Area of Responsibility (AOR) will determine the level of severity and stress they will experience. Either it is having to take gun fire, hold back a line, be on the lookout for hidden Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) or simply providing security and always being prepared for the possibility of an attack.
Studies have shown how deployments can affect personnel differently on a mental level. Even in locations where the threat is not as high, the simple stress that comes from adapting to a new environment and away from loved ones can be taxing to the individual and their family.
Psychological Health Center of Excellence states, “Combat and operational stress is a normal reaction to an abnormal event…Combat and operational stress applies to all deployments, not just those involving a combat environment. Being away from the comforts of home and support systems can add stress that often is not recognized.”
Mental health is a serious matter, especially in the military. Personnel in command understand the importance of mental health and seek ways for their troops on the ground to find ways to relieve themselves of stress in a multitude of ways.
In 2016, the U.S. Air Force Marathon took place at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. At the same time, about 2,000 deployed Airmen in Qatar, Afghanistan, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Southwest Asia also stepped to the starting line to participate, not letting a minor hurdle such as being deployed, stop them from competing in the Air Force Marathon.
Now in Kuwait, 2018, the semi-finals and finals of the Rock soccer games took place. These games began as a way for deployed military to get out of their rooms, somewhere away from work and deployment life, exert some energy and have some fun while taking part in a little competition. The word “little” being vastly underrated.
Staff sergeant (SSgt) Nicholas Reynolds, a reservist stationed at Wright-Patterson Air Force base is on his second deployment. He is currently deployed in Kuwait and working as a Security Forces member. When Reynolds isn’t working, he can be found playing soccer with some coworkers and other deployed individuals. Reynolds is the captain for the 387th Security Forces squadron soccer team in Kuwait.
Reynolds states, “There is a lot more to do here than my first deployment in Afghanistan, a lot more things to do here to raise morale.”
The reason Reynolds decided to take up soccer while deployed was to better his health. Reynolds began to feel that competitive itch the more he played and decided to participate in the soccer tournament.
“It is a great opportunity for individuals to take out their stress and kind of relieve themselves of the stressors of a deployed environment,” Reynolds says. “Getting together with others, kind of socializing in an athletic type of environment. It is good for people. Potentially it can bring sometimes coalition forces together or people from different units together. It is good to have.”
Reynolds mentions how easy it is to get caught up in going to work and staying in the room. Continuing that same routine for the 6 months of deployment will eat away at a people and make the deployment seem longer as well as harder to deal with, elevating stress and decreasing morale.
“Getting out and getting involved in a sport, especially where different people from different groups get together and have a good time, that can help relieve some of the mental stressors that go on from being away from home,” says Reynolds.
Deployments are what the individual makes it. They can be fun and exciting, they can bring anxiety and fear, or they can be long, boring and miserable. It is entirely on the person experiencing it. A group of people can deploy together and each of them will have a different experience and different opinion of how it went. For the person who does the job and goes back to their room, they may feel miserable and homesick. For the person who decides to make the best of it and participate in events, go to the gym, take dance classes, or join an intramural sports team, the deployment flies by and they leave having formed new bonds with people they otherwise would not have met and great stories to tell when they get back stateside.
“I would definitely encourage someone who is isolating themselves or trying to stay by themselves to get out there and do something social or something that is competitive because you can build some really good relationships,” says Reynolds.