HomeNewsFeaturesDisplay

Chaplains program helps Airmen SOAR

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Upon entering the Air Force, Airmen are taught to fly, fight and win, but now Airmen returning from deployment can SOAR.

The Spiritually Oriented Assessment and Reintegration program is an opportunity for Airmen returning from a deployment to speak to a chaplain about problems that Airmen face post-deployment.

"When we come back from a six month deployment, we have changed, the people we have worked with have changed, even our families change in one way or another," said Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Michael Grubbs, 30th Space Wing chaplain. "Readjusting to all aspects of life can be stressful. The SOAR program is a one-on-one, privileged communication that helps Airmen make that transition."

Although Airmen are speaking with a chaplain, the meeting doesn't have to involve religion.

"It is possible to be spiritual and not involve religion," Chaplain Grubbs said. "With SOAR we will speak as little or as much about religion as the individual desires. This program is about helping people."

The SOAR program, although a separate entity, works in conjunction with the Warfighter Resiliency Program to help Airmen reintegrate into life.

"The Warfighter Resiliency Program is a program that is ran by the base chapel, mental health and the Airman and Family Readiness Center," said Tech. Sgt. Molly Dzitko, the Airman and Family Readiness Center NCO in charge. "It is a meeting with several people who have returned from a deployed location. They are able to talk to each other and realize that they are not the only person facing what they are facing."

Airmen who return from a deployment often have stressors that they are unable to communicate because they feel alone, said Chaplain Grubbs.

"WARP is used so that people realize that there is a network of people who are experiencing these challenges," he said. "It develops a cross communication that can be a very helpful and educational experience. The SOAR program is about giving Airmen the opportunity to speak privately with someone who cares, and realizes they are important. "

The programs are not specific to Airmen who are deployed to combat situations. Any Airman who is removed from his normal activities for an extended period of time and then returns will face stressors. These programs are designed to combat that stress, not only for the Airman, but for Vandenberg's many missions.

"If the 30th Space Wing is a building, and all its Airmen are the bricks of that building, we can't afford to have bricks that are fragile," Chaplain Grubbs said. "An Airman that doesn't have someone to talk with about his or her experiences and the stress in their life is going to be a fragile Airman."

The benefits of the SOAR program do not stop with healthy Airmen. It also educates wing leaders on what changes can be made to better accommodate Airmen who are deployed.

"We never mention names," Chaplain Grubbs said. "We look for trends. In a previous command, we realized that limited communication between family members and Airmen in a deployed location was an added stressor. We brought it up to wing leadership and the morale call policy was expanded. This was in addition to the phone cards Airman and Family Readiness Center offers on the deployment line."

The program is an amazing tool that links deployed Airmen's biggest concerns to Air Force leadership. As the War on Terrorism continues, a program like SOAR is a great benefit to the Air Force's mission to fly, fight and win.