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NEWS | Feb. 12, 2018

N.Y. Guard chaplain shares U.S. experience dealing with PTSD

By Sgt. Alexander Rector New York National Guard

LVIV, Ukraine – New York Army National Guard Maj. Andrew Ayres, the chaplain for the Joint Multinational Training Group Ukraine, was on hand to share the American military's experience in coping with post-traumatic stress as Ukrainian medical professionals, psychologists, chaplains, and lawyers hosted a Feb. 7 round-table symposium focusing on the issue.

The Ukrainian military, which has been engaged in an anti-terrorism campaign since early 2014, has an ever increasing number of combat veterans, many of whom suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

As the number of PTSD and combat stress cases increase, the Ukrainian military is striving to provide soldiers and their families with much needed assistance.
As part of the initiative, medical professionals, military officers, lawyers, psychologists and religious leaders gathered together to collaborate on different actions to take to best address this growing concern.

“This is a topic that we have been dealing with in the United States for some time now,” Ayers said. “We have one chaplain in every unit. Essentially, one chaplain for every 400 to 500 Soldiers. We also have psychologists and counselors in our units as well.”

“When we are in a combat zone our chaplains are actively engaged in preparing Soldiers to reintegrate with their families and communities back home,” Ayers explained. “When a Soldier returns home from deployment, the Army provides them with an opportunity to receive care if PTSD begins to surface.”

Representatives from the Lviv Regional Hospital spoke at the conference and indicated that during an experiment conducted, 43 out of 110 veterans (39.1%) were found to have some sort of psychological disorder.

In addition to praising the amount of clinical care that is provided to U.S. service members experiencing mental health issues, Ayres also advocated the spiritual care provided. 

“One of our greatest assets are our communities,” Ayres added. “We have many different faith groups that sponsor spiritual weekends of healing.” 

“We also have veterans in the communities that will volunteer their services to help a Soldier coming back from a combat deployment,” Ayres said. “One of the things we have discovered is that combat veterans feel most comfortable talking to other combat veterans, so we try to ensure that they are paired up with someone who has gone through a similar experience.”

Canadian military members – part of the Canadian Operation Unifier - Capt. Maurice Ennis, the unit's physician, and Capt. Humberto Lopes, the unit's chaplain, also took part in the conference, as did New York Army National Guard Sgt. Michael Burton, the JMTG-U chaplain's assistant.