Active Duty - SD National Guard officer reintegrated into home life

Active Duty - 09/29/2010

By Jim Kent
It's been six months since Chief Warrant Officer Brett Anderson returned from a year-long deployment to Kuwait. He served with the South Dakota Army National Guard's 1st Battalion, 147th Field Artillery and 147th Forward Support Company. Today we continues our series on Anderson's deployment and speak with the soldier, husband and father to see how he's readjusted to being home.

There's a line from an old Sinatra standard, "Where or When", that says "It seems we stood and talked like this before." Most everyone can relate to that, including me. Though in this case, I'm sitting, not standing, and talking with Brett Anderson as we have many times before over the last 18 months.

The easiest place to track down Anderson is at Bully Blends, in Rapid City - his favorite spot to get a cup of coffee. And that's just what he needs this morning.

"That's a long.....I hate to say miserable, but that's probably the best way to say it," comments Anderson. "That's a long miserable drive. It was rain from Sioux Falls to Ellsworth Air Force Base and you forget how straight and long that drive is."

But that's one indication that Brett is home and reintegrated into his normal routine - a 600-mile roundtrip drive to a conference in Sioux Falls.

"After the conference was done, we had some dinner and some drinks and smoked a cigar," Anderson recalls. "First time I smoked a cigar in a long time. And, uh, it was fine until the morning after and....eewww!

"That's why I don't smoke cigars," he adds with a laugh.

Cigars and boring drives aside, Brett says he's doing well.

"The military uses that term...reintegration," explains Anderson. "And I think, uh, probably call that mission complete. There's a need for the reintegration and the Army does a great job of bringing soldiers and families back together after deployment. You know, there are some challenges there. Didn't have any responsibilities and not many choices to make while you're come back and get reintegrated back into your family where there's a lot of choices to be made."

Brett says the Army has required reintegration drills for soldiers to allow them to learn from others' experiences - and to let them know they're not alone.

"Well, the first drill we had was conducted in Sioux Falls," Anderson recalls. "You can bring your family members. It's kind of a round-robin event where you can sign up. There's financial classes...cause there are some opportunities to save a lot of income while you're overseas. whaddya' do with that money when you come back? Are you gonna waste it? They have civilian people that come and tell you, 'Here's what you could do with it. You could invest it here. You could do this.' They had some drug awareness classes. Maybe you left and didn't have a teenager, but you've come back and now you do. So, maybe you want to get brushed up on what your child is far as high school."

Reintegration drills take place at the 30, 60 and 90-day marks after a soldier returns from deployment. Brett believes the training served its purpose and feels fully adjusted to life at work.

"I do remember walking into that office," says Anderson. "And it was very surreal to see, well, there's the chair I sat in. And there's everything else... it had been dusted or something. It's clean. But everything was pretty much that same area where I left it. Yeah, it was a minute or two and then I was back at it."

Brett works for the National Guard as a supply officer. Something that did change during his absence was the Guard's shift to a 4-day workweek. At first, Brett saw this as a huge positive.

"But, again, when you come back and you get into a routine of what is accepted by everybody and, again, there's a lot of choices and distractions back here," explains Anderson. "You know, a 10-hour workday and then that 3-day gets filled up really quick. Yeah, it does."

Mostly, says Brett, it gets filled with family responsibilities, especially concerning 7-year old Taylor and 5-year old Ema.

"It always seems that there's something going on," Anderson observes. "You know, Ema did always have dance and Taylor was in soccer last year when I was gone. So, the weekends, you know.... Saturday and Sunday with the kids are usually filled up. I was out of town for a couple of days this week. I'm finishing my college degree. I'm in my last course. I've got a 5-page paper due on Monday, so I've gotta' work on that. Of course, NFL is on Sundays, so...."

But no matter how hectic the schedule of his "normal" family life, Brett says he's now never too busy to help his wife, Michele - just a little more than he used to before being deployed.

"The thing I've learned the most is how much I need her and have needed her since I've been get through that time-management prioritization and help me get back into what routine is like for our family," explains Anderson. "And she's been great throughout the whole thing. You know, I can't thank my wife enough for everything she's done for me."

As for helping himself, Brett's taken up golfing since his return home. He says he's not keeping score yet.

Like reintegration into his home life, Brett's just tracking the swings he gets right.


Brett Anderson - home in Rapid City

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