A lesson in military culture

Behavioral Health Professionals from across the Commonwealth participate in a road march with protective gear and a weapon at Wendell H. Ford Regional Training Center in Greenville, Ky., May 17, as part of a 72-hour military culture experience in support of Operation Immersion. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Olivia Burton, Kentucky Guard Family Programs)

By Olivia Burton, Kentucky National Guard Family Programs

GREENVILLE, Ky. — Behavioral Health Professionals from across the Commonwealth gathered at Wendell H. Ford Regional Training Center in Greenville, Ky., May 16-19, for a 72-hour military culture experience. 56 civilians were guided through basic soldier tasks, physical fitness training, and courses that strengthened their understanding of what members of the military face on duty.

Operation Immersion has become a leading force for behavioral health care services looking to enrich their organizations and provide top quality care for Soldiers. Participants slept in the barracks, ate Meals Ready to Eat (MREs), took a ride on a Blackhawk, and even went “turkey hunting” at the simulation center.

All the photos can be viewed at “Kentucky National Guard Family Programs” Facebook page: CLICK HERE (you can also search for them on Facebook and scroll to ‘Operation Immersion’ if the link doesn’t work).

Presentations focused on topics ranging from resilience to suicide prevention and included personal testimonies from local Veterans. A special presentation by John Mustain incorporated the resources of the Epilepsy Foundation with his personal experience in the military.

“I see so many who attend trying hard to gain an understanding of me and my sisters and brothers in arms,” he said. “I watch them as they go through the Operation Immersion experience, and I see their sincere desire to learn and better serve their clients.”

Chaplain (Capt.) Phil Majcher, along with 10 other Kentucky National Guardsmen worked hands on with civilians to provide a voice for Soldiers and to answer questions.

“Throughout our Commonwealth and surrounding areas, there is a true desire to assist our men and women in uniform. These professionals have a deep knowledge of their field, but they feel culturally disconnected,” said Majcher. “This military is a culture of its own. If our culture is honored, it is easier for us to believe you want to help. Operation Immersion allows for the culture to be seen through experience and honored through practice.”

Monica Himes, a third year participant of the program, invited her daughter and one of her students to join in this year.

“One of the things I like the most is getting to interact with the soldiers, getting to sit down over a meal and talk to them about their lives in the Military,” said Himes. “This event really gives you a deeper appreciation for what they’ve been through,” Himes said, who also serves as a military social work professor at Morehead State University. “My students always ask me ‘How do you know all of this?’ A lot of my knowledge has come from Operation Immersion and from staying in touch with the soldiers.”

Participants expressed their gratitude for the opportunity to peek inside the lives of those who sacrifice so much. Wanda Beckley of Jefferson County reflected on her experience, “I remember the Cuban Conflict had just begun. We all thought we were going to war. But now I can see I was only thinking about myself. I wasn’t even thinking about those that were going to have to fight for me. I have learned so much at Operation Immersion and it has become something very important to me and for Kentucky.”

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