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Dispatch from the Front: Combat stress center
Army Sgt. 1st Class Timmy, a Craig Joint Theater Hospital behavioral therapist dog, helps stressed servicemembers relax and communicate their feelings. Sergeant Timmy also engages with children in Afghanistan during outreach missions. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Amber R. Kelly-Herard)
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Dispatch from the Front: Furry sergeant eases deployment stress

Posted 3/24/2011   Updated 3/24/2011 Email story   Print story


by Senior Airman Amber R. Kelly-Herard
375th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

3/24/2011 - BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan  -- Have you seen an Army sergeant first class who is about 24 inches tall, 80 pounds and is furry?

The sergeant mentioned above is Sgt. 1st Class Timmy, a yellow Labrador, who works in the Freedom Restoration Center here as a therapy dog.

Sergeant Timmy is used to allow patients at the FRC to open up better when talking about stress. He is also used to lighten the mood when visiting Bagram and other forward operating bases.

Additionally, he is used to interact with local Afghan children.

"The responses vary with Afghan children," said Lt. Col. Catherine Bobenrieth, 455th Combat Stress Center commander. "Dogs are thought to be unclean so some are afraid of him, but once they get used to him, they are very responsive."

Prior to coming here, Sergeant Timmy spent two years in training at America's Vet Dogs.

"He is very approachable and docile and he is trained not to bark," said Colonel Bobenrieth, deployed from Air Force Medical Operations Agency. "There's just something about being around him that lowers people's heart rates and makes them more willing to engage."

"Most people say that, 'he makes me happy,'" added Army Capt. Theresa Schillreff, occupation therapist and the only commissioned military working dog handler.

Sergeant Timmy is one of only two therapy dogs in Afghanistan. He arrived in July and will be here for two years.

The FRC is a place that focuses on rest, education, recreation and regular sleep and eating.

"Servicemembers can be sent to the FRC from their command for a couple of days to build resiliency and restoration to enhance management of combat and operational stress reactions," said Captain Schillreff, deployed from Misau Army Depot. "It is also the only one in theater."

The FRC and Sergeant Timmy both fall under the 455th Combat Stress Control Center in the Craig Joint Theater Hospital.

"We help patients with normal reactions from being deployed to help prevent post-traumatic stress disorder," said Colonel Bobenrieth, 455th CSC commander. "We also help with behavioral health issues that people may already have."

The most common issues, Colonel Bobenrieth said, are issues at home with relationships.

The 455th CSC is a 22-person team composed of Airmen and Soldiers filling Airmen positions that is responsible for serving eastern Afghanistan.

The team travels with a chaplain and performs debriefs after an event has happened such as an injury or death. The clinic also accepts walk-in patients.

"Ninety-eight percent of our patients are able to return back to duty," said Colonel Bobenrieth.

Another program the 455th CSC has started is telebehavior health care, which allows patients to be seen via videoconference.

"This reduces the stigma of the center and increases access to care," said Colonel Bobenrieth.

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