Photo Information

Petty Officer 1st Class Osvaldo Diaz, the Regimental Combat Team 7 independent duty corpsman, sits down with a fellow sailor to conduct his post-deployment health assessment, Sept. 4, 2010, after a yearlong deployment in Afghanistan.

Photo by Cpl. Skyler Tooker

RCT-7 ensures mental health for returning Marines and sailors

4 Sep 2010 | Cpl. Skyler Tooker

Health officials with Regimental Combat Team 7 are conducting post-deployment health assessments for the Marines and sailors at the end of their yearlong deployment to identify and address any mental and physical health issues.

The process, which began Sept. 4, consists of answering questions online about the deployment, then speaking with a corpsman about any issues which may have accrued while deployed.

The post-deployment health assessment is a program mandated by the Assistant Secretary of Defense for the Health Affairs. All service members who have completed a deployment on or after March 20, 2004, are required to have a completed PDHA documented in their medical record and the Electronic Deployment Health Assessment database maintained by the Navy Environmental Health Center, according to Marine Administrative Message 283/06.

“It is important to conduct the PDHA in country because it helps us recognize the Marine’s or sailor’s problems before going home,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Osvaldo Diaz, RCT-7 independent duty corpsman. “By catching the problems before we go home, we can arrange for the Marine or sailor to receive the proper help or counseling when they return home.”

Concussions and other brain injuries are some of the more common mental health issues the corpsmen discover on the PDHA. These can occur when a Marine or sailor has been in a vehicle hit by an improvised explosive device or near one when it went off, according to Diaz, 31, from El Paso, Texas.

“Exposure to any dramatic experiences such as seeing dead or wounded Marines could also have an effect on a Marine’s mental health,” said Diaz. “We also document any exposure to hazardous materials, because it could affect the Marine’s health down the road.”

Deployments place mental and physical stress on the Marines and sailors. They are working seven days a week and being put in hazardous conditions every day, which can take a toll on the body and mind of a service member.

“I think it is great we are doing the PDHA out here. We need to talk about our experiences out here after a yearlong deployment,” said 1st Lt. Patrick Maguire, embedded training team commander and logistics and administration mentor. “It doesn’t matter whether we talk about it with our buddies or a corpsman, as long as the Marines get a chance to talk about their experiences out here.”

“Some of the Marines here just think this is another check in the box, or just another thing they have to do before going home,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Philip Nacionales, leading petty officer for the Naval Medical Center Camp Dwyer. “But the PDHA program was designed to help the Marines and sailors face and get over the problems they obtained while on a deployment.”