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Supporting our Mobilized Sailors

March 2011 Navy

By Vice Admiral Dirk Debbink, Chief of Navy Reserve

It’s my great pleasure to accept Rear Admiral Coane’s invitation to write a column for Navy. I would like to use this forum to address a vitally important topic: Navy deployment cycle support for our Active and Reserve Component Sailors. Mobilization and deployment are a fact of life for our Sailors. On 20 September 2001, following the 9/11 attacks, President George W. Bush addressed a Joint Session of Congress. He sent a clear message to everyone in uniform: “And tonight, a few miles from the damaged Pentagon, I have a message for our military: Be ready. I’ve called the Armed Forces to alert, and there is a reason. The hour is coming when America will act, and you will make us proud.”

And make us proud they have! Since 9/11, the Navy Reserve has had 63,000 mobilizations. And Active Component Sailors have completed over 30,000 Individual Augmentee assignments. As a member of the Navy Preparedness Alliance, or NPA, I’d like to bring you up to date on how we’re supporting our Sailors and their families throughout the deployment cycle, with a particular emphasis on our support for Individual Augmentees (IAs) and their families.

The unique nature of IA deployments impacts both Active and Reserve Sailors. While RC Sailors have unique challenges associated with civilian employers and not living near fleet concentrations, IA Sailors all face unique challenges when they deploy without the usual support systems of their command, base, NOSC, squadron or ship. Navy and Navy Reserve have worked closely together on this issue. Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command (USFFC) serves as executive agent for Navy IA policy and processes. Recognizing the challenges of being an IA Sailor and deploying outside the normal Navy support lifelines, USFFC has established a robust IA support system, serving both Active and Reserve Sailors. Recognizing the value of clear, credible information, USFFC has established the Navy IA Web site (, providing a vast array of information for Sailors, families, commands and employers. The IA process is explained, resources are identified and points of contact are detailed.

And yes, there’s an app for that! The Navy IA iPhone/iPod Touch app allows Sailors to take the entire content of with them on deployment without needing an Internet connection.

Together, as a Total Force Issue, we have made significant improvements throughout the deployment cycle, or what we call the IA Continuum: Pre-Deployment, Man/Train/Equip, Boots on Ground and Redeployment/ Demobilization.


Pre-Deployment: Perhaps the most import thing we’ve done for our Sailors in the pre-deployment phase is to provide more advance notice of their upcoming mobilizations. We currently give 120-day notification, and we are working towards 180 days of advanced notice. This policy has been a great benefit to our Sailors and their families, allowing them to identify and resolve issues in advance.

We’re also providing better training to our Sailors and their families. Each Navy Reserve Activity, such as our Navy Operational Support Commands (NOSCs) and aviation squadrons, hosts an annual Pre-Deployment Family Readiness Conference (PDFRC). More than just an open house or a “family day,” PDFRCs feature subject matter experts providing information on TRICARE, legal assistance, family readiness and resources available to families of mobilized Sailors.

Man/Train/Equip: During the Man/ Train/Equip phase, Sailors report to a Naval Mobilization and Processing Site (NMPS). One of the most important functions at the NMPS is ensuring that Reserve Sailors are properly brought on Active Duty – their Active Duty pay records must be turned in, benefits for their dependents must be verified and all administrative matters must be resolved before a Sailor is sent forward. Eliminating pay problems at this point is far easier than fixing them when a Sailor is overseas!

After clearing the NMPS, IA Sailors receive basic combat skills training which is conducted by Army Drill Instructors at an Army training site. Sailors are taught what they need to know to work among Soldiers and Marines in a combat zone – everything from weapons training to body armor to first aid and self aid. When Sailors are confident in their ability to perform the mission, they can excel in any environment.

Boots on Ground: This is the actual deployment time, and we’ve made significant improvements in how we support our deployed Sailors while in theater. On the home front, each Sailor is assigned a Command Individual Augmentee Coordinator, or CIAC who reaches out to the Sailor and his/her family on a regular basis.

To help address IA Sailor issues in theater, Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command/U.S. Fifth Fleet/Combined Maritime Forces established Commander Task Force – Individual Augmentee (CTF-IA). Lead by the Deputy Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, CTFIA provides dedicated service component support to IA Sailors Boots on Ground (BOG) in the COMUSCENTCOM Area of Responsibility. CTF-IA supports the IA Sailor with access to their Navy operational chain of command when deployed in the COMUSCENTCOM theatre under tactical control of the Commander on the ground. CTF-IA helps Sailors by addressing issues such as training, movement in and out of theatre, pay, force employment, leave (emergency and R&R) and other Navy issues. Even if they are the only Sailor in an Army unit, they are not alone.

Redeployment/Demobilization: Redeployment means coming home, and we’ve made great progress in making this process as simple as possible. In the past, Sailors frequently experienced lengthy and frustrating delays – long waits at multiple checkpoints between their IA assignment and home, all while lugging around their weapons and two seabags full of “battle rattle” – helmets and body armor. Simply having Sailors return their weapons and equipment in theater greatly simplified and expedited the coming home process.

While they are turning in their gear in Kuwait, Sailors participate in the Warrior Transition Program. The Warrior Transition Program (WTP) facilitates IA Sailors’ return and eases the reintegration process with families, commands and communities following a war zone deployment. The program involves a series of briefs and interviews that are designed to help Sailors make the transition back to the United States. Here, slack time is a benefit. It provides a few days between the battlefield and home to decompress in a controlled environment with experts on hand to assist with transition issues.

Back in CONUS, we ensured that the demobilization process at the NMPS is as simple as possible while still being thorough. For the vast majority of our Sailors, demobilizing now takes days, not weeks. Once stateside, getting Sailors home faster greatly reduces frustration.

Sailors are evaluated for physical and mental health during demobilization, and, again, three-to-six months after they return home. The Post- Deployment Health Reassessment (PDHRA) Program, is designed to identify and address health concerns, with specific emphasis on mental health, that may have emerged since deployment. Completion of this selfassessment, which can be done at home and on-line, is closely and actively tracked. Established in 2005, the PDHRA form was updated in 2008 with enhanced questions on behavioral health and added questions on traumatic brain injury.

The Navy recognizes that homecoming is not a single-day event; in fact, planning for reunion and reintegration starts from the moment a Sailor receives notice that he or she has been selected for an IA assignment. The CIAC helps facilitate the IA Sailor’s adjustment back into the family, command and community through planned reunion and reintegration events, such as commandsponsored “Welcome Home” events and Returning Warrior Workshops (RWW). Returning Warrior Workshops, pioneered by the Navy Reserve, are a weekend for the Navy to honor and support those Sailors who have been deployed in support of combat or combat support operations. Our Sailors are encouraged to bring a guest to these workshops, to include a spouse, significant other, family member, friend or neighbor.

Because Reserve Sailors live far from fleet concentrations, we’ve worked with the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery to create the Navy Reserve Psychological Health Outreach Program (PHOP). With a nationwide network of trained professionals and family therapists, this program creates a psychological health safety net for RC Sailors and their families by monitoring for, identifying and coordinating treatment of stress injuries. PHOP teams conduct outreach and education programs, including Operational Stress Control and suicide prevention training, at PDFRCs and RWWs.


In January, I had the privilege of attending a White House event where the President, the First Lady and Dr. Jill Biden unveiled “Strengthening Our Military Families: Meeting America’s Commitment” – a comprehensive program detailing nearly 50 commitments by Federal agencies responding to the President’s directive to establish a coordinated and comprehensive Federal approach to supporting military families. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen and his wife Deborah, our Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Gary Roughead and his wife Ellen are leading the charge for better family support. They all understand that family readiness is a key component of military readiness.

Our Navy Reserve Sailors and their families have shown amazing resiliency. We honor our Sailors when we support them throughout the deployment cycle, whether as part of a unit or as an IA. We honor our families when we help them to be ready Navy families – strong, resilient, confident, informed and capable. When we do this, our Navy Reserve is strong – and lives up to the promise of our Navy Reserve Force Motto: “Ready Now. Anytime, Anywhere.” And our Navy is able truly to be: “America’s Navy: A Global Force for Good.”

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