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Military prepares mental health help for Marines and sailors returning from Afghanistan

February 27, 2011 | 11:07 am

U.S. Navy medical officials are promising an unprecedented amount of mental health evalution and counseling for Marines and sailors returning to Camp Pendleton after months of bloody fighting in the Sangin district of Afghanistan.

"Our goal is to make sure that when anyone goes forward and goes through what these guys have gone through, it is not at the expense of their families or their own mental health," Rear Adm. C. Forrest Faison III, commander of Navy Medicine West and Naval Medical Center San Diego, told the North (San Diego) County Times.

In a report Sunday by military writer Mark Walker, Faison said that when the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, returns, "we're surging people to Camp Pendleton in ways we've never done before because we want to make sure we are meeting their needs."

Troops will be evaluated for post-traumatic stress disorder and other ills. The battalion, after suffering 24 killed in action and more than 150 wounded, is expected to return in April after a seven-month deployment to Helmand province, long a Taliban stronghold.

When the Marines and sailors return, Faison told the newspaper, each will be seen by a counselor and given a mental health assessment before going on leave. Some evaluation has already been done by medical personnel deployed to Afghanistan.

Efforts will also be made to provide care for reservists who are returning to their homes, and to the spouses and children of the troops. "This is an opportunity to look at a new standard of care," Faison said.

-- Tony Perry in San Diego

Photo: Marines in the Sangin district of Afghanistan at a memorial for comrades killed in combat. Credit: U.S. Marine Corps