Warrior Transition Program Opens Decompression Tent to Welcome IAs

Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Christopher D. Blachly, U.S. Naval Forces, 5th Fleet Public Affairs

CAMP ARIFJAN, KUWAIT - The  Warrior Transition Program at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, held a dedication ceremony opening the doors to the Cmdr. Charles "Keith" Springle Decompression Tent June 27.

The tent is the latest addition to the facility dedicated to welcoming the Navy's Individual Augmentee and Global War on Terror Support Assignment Sailors back to the fleet after serving their "boots on ground" tours throughout the 5th Fleet Area of Responsibility.

Named after Cmdr. Charles Springle, who was killed in May 2009 while deployed with the Army 55th Medical Company Combat Stress Center in Iraq, the tent was designed as a place where  redeploying Sailors can go to relax and unwind before returning home from their assignments.

"He (Springle) was one of the few Individual Augmentees that did not make it through the doors at the Warrior Transition Center,"  said Cmdr. Curtis Price, chaplain at WTP. "Additionally, as a social worker, he is an example of the caring professionals here at the Warrior Transition Program. His passion is our passion. The decompression tent is a natural extension of his life's work."

The first thing many sailors will see as they enter the tent is a life-sized photo printed on the opposite wall of a homecoming celebration for the guided-missile destroyer USS Gonzalez as the ship draws close to the pier.

According to Price, the image was selected because the mindset during a homecoming celebration is what the WTP staff wants the redeploying sailors to feel. They are close to the pier, and almost finished.

"By the time our redeploying Sailors arrive here in Kuwait, they are a mere plane ride away from home," Price said. "Our desire is for them to experience the beginning of a stress-free homecoming."

To facilitate that, the decompression tent has a 35-seat theater, 10 computers, five SPAWAR Internet phones, an eight-seat interlinked gaming center, a large screen television, and various other items that Sailors can enjoy like books on tape and board games.

"It's designed to help Sailors take their minds off the arduous duty that they've done in theater and to help put them in the mindframe of going home," said Chief Petty Officer Maemarie Josafat, boatswain's mate and leading chief petty officer of WTP. "WTP is not about the decompression tent. It's about the sailor, and getting them home."

The mission and mindset of WTP is the sailor, but the day was all about opening the tent. Following the ribbon cutting ceremony, guests were treated to a tour, including a presentation in the tent's theater highlighting the construction of the facility, which began in 2009.

"MWR Bahrain provided all of the couches, movies, books on tape, and X-Boxes." Price said. "The Seabees from Camp Moreell built the stadium seating in the theater."

Also present at the dedication ceremony were Petty Officer 3rd Class Raymond McKnight, personnel specialist, and Rear   Adm. Charles M. Gaouette, deputy commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command.

The decompression tent will be open 24 hours a day for redeploying sailors, and is the first of a plan of improvements, including  a covered garden area, designed with one thing in mind - the sailor coming home.

- USN -