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Face of Defense: Clinicians Help Deployed Troops Fight Stress

By Navy Lt. Cmdr. Jesse Ehrenfeld
NATO ROLE 3 Multinational Medical Unit

KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan, Feb. 2, 2015 – Whether on their first deployment or their fifth, service members can feel the impact of deployment-related stressors.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Lt. Cmdr. Mahmoud Ahmed, a Navy psychiatrist, left, speaks with a patient at the NATO Role 3 Multinational Medical Unit on Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan. U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Cmdr. Jesse Ehrenfeld

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

The primary responsibility of the Behavioral Health Department at the NATO Role 3 Multinational Medical Unit here is to mitigate and treat the stressors that arise in a forward-deployed environment.

As the overall mission in Afghanistan has changed and combat operations have ended, the behavioral health assets have adjusted to meet the needs of service members.

Currently, the behavioral health team at the NATO Role 3, one of the most forward-operating behavioral health teams in Afghanistan, consists of a Navy psychiatrist, an Army social worker, an Army clinical psychologist and an Army behavioral health technician.

Joint Enterprise

Part of a joint enterprise between Navy Medicine and the Army’s Combat Operational Stress Control Unit, these clinicians work together as a unified team to provide the best care possible.

“The medical providers at NATO Role 3 Multinational Medical Unit on Kandahar Airfield are dedicated to supporting our deployed soldiers, and it’s an honor to work alongside such talented clinicians and to be afforded the opportunity to provide behavioral health care to our service members who are deployed,” said Capt. Ashley Davis, an Army psychologist.

One way the behavioral health team helps deployed service members manage stress is through their work to educate individuals on how to handle stress and develop positive coping mechanisms. Psycho-educational classes are routinely offered which cover topics such as sleep hygiene, effective communication skills, anger management and improving interpersonal skills.

Importance of Adequate Rest

“The impact of sleep on a person’s mood cannot be overstated,” Davis said. “It is so important for deployed personnel to make sure they are rested and able to engage when needed.”

One program offered at the Role 3 is called “Caring for the Caregivers.” The purpose of the program is to teach deployed health care workers how to take care of one another and themselves. Often, providers get focused on taking care of everyone except themselves, tending to put aside their own mental health needs.

The innovative program is a way for all caregivers to get support and have a safe place to process own their experiences. The overall goal is to enable these important caregivers to remain at the top of their game, so they can function flawlessly when taking care of their own patients.

Consultations, Assessments

Navy Lt. Cmdr. Mahmoud Ahmed, a psychiatrist from Eau Claire, Wisconsin, provides oversight and direction to the Behavioral Health Department here. By facilitating consultations and assessments, he enables commands to determine if patients are able to receive care in-theater or, when necessary, be transferred to a stateside facility for further management.

“My job is to assess whether a service member is able to benefit from a brief intervention here or whether they need more intense therapy elsewhere,” Ahmed said. “Ultimately, our department’s goal is to ensure all service members are able to function at their peak.”


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