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Minnesota National Guard
The value of reintegration

Although he had his doubts when he returned from Iraq, Sgt Tim Green of the Minnesota National Guard unit A Battery, 1-151st Field Artillery based in Marshall said he now believes reintegration services for returning Soldiers is important

And on Sunday, Green and 12 other Soldiers from the Marshall unit got a chance to share that with US Sen Norm Coleman, R-Minn, who stopped at Camp Ripley while the Guards were training

“I firmly believe reintegration resources alleviated a lot of serious issues that could have happened,” Green said

The military has many resources to help returning Soldiers, including services for counseling, marriage counseling and others that Soldiers likely wouldn’t have known about without the formal reintegration programs, Green said

Coleman was at Camp Ripley to talk about reintegration of returning troops, Green said

Minnesota is the only state with a formal program, Green said It’s called Beyond The Yellow Ribbon

The Marshall unit is part of the A company who were the first participants in reintegration programs after they returned from Iraq in the fall of 2005

“We were fortunate to be the first to do it,” Green said of reintegration

“(Coleman) wanted to know how it went for us”

As the return of about 2,600 Minnesota troops looms, Coleman was interested to learn the value of reintegration, Green said

Coleman said he’d like the Department of Defense to change its policy on leaving troops alone for the first 90 days after they return, Green said

The Minnesota program has a formal session 30 days after the return

“When we first got back, nobody wanted to do it, it was ‘leave us alone, we don’t need that,’” Green said “I even thought that”

But issues definitely came up during those first weeks and months after Soldiers returned, Green said

Soldiers come back feeling 12-foot tall and secure, but then realize there are some family problems, marriage problems and other issues, Green said Reintegration gave Soldiers the help they needed, he said

Marshall Soldiers participated in formal programs 30, 60 and 90 days after they returned, and services were also available at other times, Green said

Coleman spent about 45 minutes with the Marshall Soldiers, Green said

Green said he’s not sure if a federal reintegration program could have helped prevent some of the violence involving veterans from the Iraq war, but he does know it’s helped in Marshall

The Bush administration’s handling of the war in Iraq has gotten a lot of attention recently, but Coleman didn’t ask the troops their views and the troops didn’t volunteer it, Green said

“The focus was really on us and what returning troops need,” Green said

In addition to talking about reintegration, Green addressed another issue with Coleman

Minnesota also needs to reinstate its tax-free income for guardsmen, Green said The money earned from Guards needs to be tax free, Green said

Green said he’d didn’t get the chance to give Coleman another suggestion on retirement benefits, but said Monday it was an important one

The federal government, Green said, needs to lower the benefit retirement age for retired National Guardsmen to 50 from 60 since so many Guardsmen have been deployed and pressed into additional duties

Both issues would help with recruitment and retention of Soldiers, Green said

Green liked that Coleman was supportive of expanding the reintegration program, at least throughout the National Guard and regular Army

“Like I told Sen Coleman, if it helps 10 percent of the troops, or saves one life or one marriage, it’s worth it,” Green said

By Rae Kruger

Article source: http://www.marshallindependent.com/articles.asp?articleID=14145

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