30th Space Wing Chapel services: a heavenly return from deployment

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- "It's something that you can't figure out, you can't put your finger on what's missing when you don't have it but its unmistakable when you do have it," said Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Michael Grubbs. A sense of post-deployment serenity may be intangible, but it's certainly not unobtainable.

That is exactly what Chaplain Grubbs and the rest of the 30th Space Wing chapel team is trying to effectuate through programs like the deployed marriage retreat and the implementation of the Spiritually Oriented Assessment and Reintegration or SOAR program. 

Don't panic...there's a program for that
About 340 Vandenberg Airmen are currently deployed around the world. Airmen who return from deployment often find themselves under a different kind of fire. Instead of dodging mortar attacks and improvised explosive devices, these veterans are faced with the challenges of family bonding and home station operations. 

"When you first get home, anything is better than getting mortared everyday but then the honeymoon goes away," Chaplain Grubbs said. "Lots of research has found that problems develop over time following redeployment."

To help Airmen combat stress on the home-front, Vandenberg implemented a SOAR program. Airmen can participate in this program 45 days after returning from deployment, to recognizing issues and develop a plan to overcome them. 

"The human cost of warfare is very great and this program helps them get resourced and networked so that they can help deal with being home in a positive and constructive way," Chaplain Grubbs said. 

Many Airmen will return September through October time frame and this is when the program will be put into over-drive. 

"We will see hundreds of people, and the chapel team is looking forward to helping them readjust," Chaplain Grubbs said.

Helping Airmen readjust to life after deployment isn't the only program the Vandenberg chapel team has to offer, they're also doing all they can to help couples re-connect.

Government paid week-end getaway
Rest and Relaxation, or R&R, is a time for deployed Airmen to get away from their deployed environment to relax and unwind. 

"That's all some people on a deployment live for," said Senior Airman Stephen Cadette, chief of internal information for 30th Space Wing Public Affairs office. "People want to kick back, go swimming, drink alcohol, or shop instead of dealing with mortar attacks, long hours and excruciating heat."

Just as that personal time is important to Airmen while deployed, personal time to reconnect with their spouses is equally important. 

"Congress authorized Title 10 funds to be expended to provide couples constructive ways to deal with life after a deployment," Chaplain Grubbs said. That is why the 30th Space Wing Chapel is going to provide a small matrimonial retreat. There will be 14 couples from Vandenberg going on a "couple's retreat" on Aug. 17 to 19 to Cambria Pines Lodge in Cambria, Calif., a 25-wooded acre lodge surrounded by lush gardens. 

"The goal with this retreat is to develop communication skills with the couple and also give them some 'we' time," Chaplain Grubbs said. The two-night stay is paid for by global war on terrorism funds, will include meals, lodging and classes on productive communication. 

"These classes will be a bit different," Chaplain Grubbs said. "There will be no power point presentations because the couples will learn through experience and decided what activities will work for them to take home and apply there."

With new programs like SOAR and the couple's retreat, the 30th Space Wing chapel team tries to create a sense of community through big ideas while having humble expectations. 

"Through programs like these, we hope that we can prevent one divorce, one domestic violence dispute, one child growing up unnecessarily in a single-parent home and one Airmen to feel hope," Chaplain Grubbs said. "We want to help families feel love and have a sense of community, in essence making life better for one Airman at a time because that's all we can hope for."

For more information on these programs and other 30th Space Wing Chapel services, call 606-5773.