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Building Resilience as an Individual Augmentee

Soldier on Aircraft Transport

U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. DeNoris A. Mickle/Released

Deploying with a unit or component that is not your own — known as serving as an individual augmentee (IA) — offers exciting opportunities to gain new experiences and work with different teams. While IAs bring unique expertise and knowledge that greatly supports the overall unit, their deployment also presents unique challenges. This article outlines tips for IAs to build resilience before, during and after deployment.

Prepare for Deployment

IAs deploy with other units, which means they can be asked to adapt to changing circumstances:1

  • Short notice of deployment
  • Longer deployments than previously experienced
  • New or unfamiliar training
  • Working with a new unit in a new environment

As an IA, you may be one of only a few individuals in your neighborhood or town who is being deployed - maybe even the only one. Before deployment, locate previously deployed service members in your home community. By preparing a social network before you leave, you can ensure that you have people to reach out to for support when you return.

IA deployments can also present unique challenges for families. Since IAs deploy with new units, their families may not have access to the same support networks they leaned on in the past. This may require spouses, parents and loved ones to find new support networks or to rely more on each other for support. To find resources for your family, contact the Psychological Health Resource Center 24/7 at 866-966-1020 or see “Services Resources” below.

Support During Deployment

Research shows that strong social ties can boost an IA’s resilience to combat-related stressors experienced during deployment.2 Simply put, being social helps build resilience.3 In addition, having supportive peer-to-leader relationships has been shown to improve confidence and psychological well-being too.3 Here are some tips to help build a strong support network:

  • Get to know the members of your new unit and develop friendships.
  • Make sure to spend some of your downtime around others – even if it’s something as simple as a game of catch.
  • Talk to someone about what’s going on during your deployment; a friend, chaplain or other trusted colleague can be a good outlet.
  • Keep an open mind about the deployment experience, remembering that the operational environment is ever-changing.
  • Adapt and be flexible to the way the new unit operates.

If you are an IA, free resources are available to you, and they work. There are a variety of ways you can talk to someone immediately about getting the care you need to maintain your psychological strength:

  • Speak with your unit’s chaplain or medic — they have been specially trained to connect their warriors to the right tools for building full mission readiness.
  • Speak with a trained health resource consultant at the Psychological Health Resource Center by calling 866-966-1020 or logging on to Real Warriors Live Chat. Regardless of where you are stationed or deployed, someone is available 24/7 to connect you, confidentially, to the right resource for getting care.
  • Contact your regional Military Treatment Facility, VA Facility or health care provider.
  • Contact MilitaryOneSource to set up face-to-face, telephone, or online consultation.
  • Contact Give an Hour to access free mental health services provided to service members and their loved ones affected by wartime service in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Resilience & Reintegration

Although returning home is often a time of incredible happiness, the transition back to life at home can be difficult and stressful. Since you did not deploy with your regular unit, or maybe even any unit at all, some IAs may also experience less fanfare at homecoming.1 Regardless of the service, reintegration stress is common among any member of the military. Follow these tips to ease the transition back to civilian life:

  • Collect contact information from the unit you are attached to, so you can keep in touch after deployment ends.
  • Keep in touch with a member from the unit you deployed with. He or she can keep you updated on their deployment activity.
  • Read the Real Warriors Campaign article entitled, “Reintegrating into Family Life After Deployment” and the “Coming Home” [PDF 567KB] brochure developed by the National Military Family Association for reintegration tips.

Service Resources

Each service offers tools and resources to support IAs and their families as they cope with deployment and reintegration:

Additional Resources

Sources

1"Ombudsman IA Support." (n.d.). Commander Navy Installations Command. 
2 Street, A., Vogt, D., & Dutra, L. "A new generation of women veterans: Stressors faced by women deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan," [PDF 330KB]. (2009). Clinical Psychology Review
3"Combat and operational stress control manual for leaders and soliders." (2009, March 18).  Department of the Army

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