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Traumatic Stress Response team

Maj. Steve Nolan is chief of the Life Skills Support Center and the Traumatic Stress Response team

Maj. Steve Nolan is chief of the Life Skills Support Center and the Traumatic Stress Response team

ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- Coping with the emotional aftermath of a traumatic event can be hard. But people at Robins don't have to face it alone.

The Traumatic Stress Response team, formerly known as the Critical Incident Stress Management team, is a group of 18 to 20 representatives from the Life Skills Support Center, the Airman and Family Readiness Center and the Base Chapel that helps prepare people for what they may face before dealing with a traumatic event, such as the aftermath of an airplane crash, clean up of a natural disaster site or coping with what they've witnessed after the fact.

Maj. Steve Nolan, chief of the Life Skills Support Center and TSR team chief, said the commander-driven program, which serves active-duty military, civilians, and contractors in on-base organizations and Robins' geographically-separated units, takes a more personable and malleable approach to helping people cope with unusual traumatic events than the former CISM.

"TSR is what replaced CISM (in late 2004) and it's very flexible," he said. "It's geared toward meeting the needs of the commander. TSR is initiated by a commander because a tragedy happened to a squadron, a group, a flight, or a unit where there's a commander. The commander calls the TSR chief and either says, 'Here's what I want,' or maybe they don't even know what they need and they say, 'What do you suggest?'"

Major Nolan said TSR teams are part of a Department of Defense-directed initiative which operates under Air Force Instruction 44-153 at each Air Force base.

Master Sgt. Sherry McIver, noncommissioned officer in charge of the Life Skills Support Center, said the TSR team explains both before and after an event how to distinguish between normal and abnormal symptoms when dealing with a traumatic event and what actions to take.

Sergeant McIver said the team performs what she calls "psychological first aid" when traumatic events occur.

"I think it's a great opportunity for individuals because a lot of times people don't realize they're going through a stressful event," she said. "Even though it may be part of someone's job, they may need help."

Different from CISM, TSR teams can meet both group and individuals needs by offering briefings and individual counseling.

Individuals are given four free, undocumented counseling sessions to work through problems dealing with stress after a traumatic event has impacted them, said Capt. Barbara Embry, chief of prevention services in Life Skills Support Center's Behavioral Health Flight.

"Most times, especially with traumas or other things, you'll find that people bounce back, often times in two or three sessions," she said.

Captain Embry said the program provides all-around benefits.

"I think it's an extraordinarily important program for the Air Force, because above all, we have a mission to do," she said. "This program is directly related to getting our folks back up with as little down time for other issues as possible. We do have a mission to do, but above all, we do take care of our folks."

Captain Embry said people who need help beyond the four free counseling sessions may get further assistance from the Base Chapel, Airman and Family Readiness Center or the Behavioral Health Flight. By doing so, people become clients of those services and must go on record as such.