Local News

Military Officials Look At 'Separation' Program To Help Reunite Families

Posted October 3, 2002 10:33 a.m. EDT

— Three of the four Fort Bragg soldiers accused of killing their wives this summer had just returned from Afghanistan. While investigators try to determine if there is a link, lawmakers and military leaders are trying to come up with better ways to reunite families. One idea is to keep them separated for a while.

In his 22-year military career, Paul Scott remembers feeling anxious and stressed every time he would come home from a long deployment.

"Wondering how things have changed. How the family has changed. How they may look at me when I come back because I'm definitely a different person," he said.

A new program now helps soldiers get reacclimated. It is called separation and reunion. The program is in direct response to a series of domestic murders at Fort Bragg this summer. Soldiers are receiving mandatory counseling before they leave Afghanistan. At Fort Bragg and a few other installations, military spouses are encouraged to go through the same thing before their loved ones come back.

Members of the House Armed Services Committee were in Fayetteville earlier this week to discuss domestic violence and ways to help soldiers readjust. One suggestion was a decompression period. It is already offered to soldiers who return for family emergencies. They get extra help on post before they go home.

Lawmakers at Monday's hearing said there have been suggestions by high-profile people involved in this issue that all soldiers go through a decompression period. However, officials said to do so would be very expensive.

"To implement that kind of event for a whole division or unit coming home is a very challening one, but we want to take a careful look at it," said Rep. John McHugh, R-New York.

Scott said anything would help.

"We just had to fend for ourselves," he said.

Fort Bragg is also working to give soldiers two weeks off when they return instead of just one. Military officials hope it will help ease the transition back to family life.