MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
The United States Marine Corps, along with the other U.S. military branches, spent countless amounts hours and energy preparing for the Iraq War, which began in March 2003. Time spent training Marines and sailors in desert operations along with implementing new aircraft capabilities such as the MV-22B Osprey became a priority in combating the enemy overseas.
As Marines headed abroad, others were returning to the homefront with mental combat scars from experiences in battle. The Department of Defense prepared to combat these psychological issues like Traumatic Brain Injury, depression, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, by implementing the Post Deployment Health Reassessment Program in 2005.
Marines with the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit completed a PDHRA survey given by the Deployment Health Center aboard Camp Lejeune, N.C., July 21, to help ensure a smooth transition back into an integrated society and to identify any mental or physical issues Marines may have received while deployed to Haiti in support of Operation Unified Response.
“We have professionals visit the Marines with an online questionnaire and they conduct one-on-one interviews with any health concerns any Marine may have from their last deployment,” said Master Sgt. James N. Emch, the Headquarters Commandant with the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit and Maumee, Ohio, native.
While the initial focus of the program is for service members who fall within a three to six-month time period, the program is available to all service members who returned from deployment since 9/11.
The mobile screening unit’s interviews, with either a physician, nurse practitioner, physician’s assistant or an independent duty corpsman, aim is to provide Marines the help they might not know they need.
“The ultimate goal for a PDHRA is to help document, for medical records, any concerns that have come from deployment,” said Beth Weppner, a physician’s assistant and military spouse. “We specifically tend to focus on mental health issues because those are issues that are often under diagnosed.”
The PDHRA is offered to all service members who returned from operational deployment, to include all active duty servicemembers, National Guard and reserve members, as well as those who have separated or retired since their return from deployment.
“There are a lot of things on the mental and physical side that Marines go through when returning from a deployment,” said Emch. “Living on a ship with one hundred Marines in a confined space is very different from living back in a house with your spouse. So as a leader in this unit, I want to ensure the transition is going smoothly.”
Just as war tactics are changing and developing due to combat evolution, so has the Deployment Health Center, and its physicians, added Emch, who deployed to Iraq three times.
“Since Operation Iraqi Freedom I, Marines have come back from deployment and [the PDHRA program] is constantly improving levels of help and care for Marines,” said Emch. “The questions on the questionnaire go straight to the point where the problems are.”
Every service member who has deployed since 9/11 is eligible to receive care by physicians at the DHC.
For more information about the DHC or the PDHRA program call (910) 449-9123 or visit their website, www.phdhealth.mil.