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No Flat Squirrels

AL UDEID AIR BASE, Qatar -- (Tech. Sgt. James and Chaplain Henry are currently deployed to Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar.)

If you spend any time around us, you'll hear us remind you that, "Life is full of flat squirrels who couldn't make a decision."

Oh, we know you've seen them, those grey furry little creatures who've wandered half way into the road trying to decide which way to go.

Many of us are nearing the end of our deployment rotation. We've witnessed the excitement as our fellow Airmen dream about hearing engines roar, the landing gear sliding up and the clunk as the gear doors close because it means their deployment is over.

But, remember that the journey is not over. Just as many deployed with a game plan for the goals they wanted to accomplish during their deployment (dig deeper into their faith, complete CLEP tests, complete certifications, complete a degree, or some sort of health and fitness goal) now it's time to start thinking about reintegration. Now is the time to decide what reintegration might look like and set expectations.

As a chaplain and chaplain assistant, we've sat across the table from countless Airmen returning from deployment. We've seen the tension during the redeployment brief and that look in their eye that says, "Chaplain, I'm fine, I just want to check the box and get outta here."

Since we don't want you to be a flat squirrel, we'd like to offer a few action steps for a smooth reintegration:

S   - Spiritual Fitness - Spend time caring for your personal spiritual life between now and when you arrive at your home station.

Q- Questions - Start asking questions now that will help set the stage for a solid redeployment. Whether that's talking to your spouse, your children or even coworkers you can begin to work through expectations now.

U- Understanding - Stay alert to how your role at your home station may have changed in your absence. Your family has also had to make adjustments that may take some time to readjust to you being home. This is natural and keeping a teachable attitude will help guide your reintegration.

I- Inside - Be conscious and aware of what's happened and happening inside you. Take time for self-care (hobbies, personal space, etc.)

R- Relationships - Take time to open the lines of communication with those you were separated from during your deployment. Relationships take time and thrive on healthy communication.

R - Resources - Don't forget that the Air Force has provided resources to help you reintegrate. The Chaplain Corps, Airman and Family Readiness Center, and mental health not only help you get through the tough times, they can help you prepare for them before they come.

E- Expectations - Remember to take it slow. You, your family members and even coworkers have expectations of how life will be upon your return. Take time to listen for the expectations of others.

L- Live - When all is said and done, don't forget this is real life - LIVE A LITTLE! Don't take this as a free pass to be irresponsible, but there are lots of opportunities waiting for you. Take time to enjoy them.

Now that you've taken time to read this article, our hope is that you begin to get your game plan together for a smooth reintegration. Along with the helping agencies listed above--we're here for you! We stand ready to serve you, your family and even your work center however we can do to ensure a smooth transition. Remember, no flat squirrels!