DTC eases transition, provides comfort for service members

by Staff Sgt. Travis Edwards
86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Since opening its doors in July 2010, the Ramstein Deployment Transition Center has been the staple location for Airmen from various high-risk Air Force specialties to transition from dangerous operations in theater to home life.

Now, little more than a year later, the DTC has opened its doors to a host of other service members of the U.S. Armed Services, 2,100 so far, allowing those specialties and teammates who are consistently in harm’s way a method to ease into the transition home.

“What we provide here is a stress-free place for service members to relax and tell us their story,” said Maj. Heather DeShone, the DTC program manager. “It’s not medical, it’s not a classroom; it’s a place for them to come in and relax on the couches.”

DeShone has been with the DTC since its inception and was part of the first cadre to arrive in June 2010 – just one month before the DTC opened its doors to the first class of explosive ordnance disposal Airmen.

As the Department of Defense’s only DTC, those couches are becoming more and more available to other career fields. The DTC is rapidly expanding to different branches of service like the Marines; even the Belgian military has expressed interest in sending a group through the class as early as June.

“Right now, we’ve had security forces, EOD, convoy medics, tactical air control party members, Marine EOD, K-9 units, RED HORSE and convoy operations service members come through,” DeShone said.

After a taste of what accommodations the Air Force has to offer, she said one Marine didn’t want to leave.

In May, a class of EOD Marines from the 1st Explosives Ordnance Disposal Company, Camp Pendleton, Calif., came in from Helmand Province in Afghanistan.
When used to only sleeping on dirt and taking showers once a week, they are excited to come here and get pampered, said Master Sgt. Greg Niles, EOD mission set manager for the DTC.

“With only two to three people per three bedroom apartment ― each with a washer, dryer, stove, oven, wireless Internet and a soft bed ― it’s no wonder some of them don’t want to leave,” he said.

But after four days at the DTC, all service members must continue on their journey home, wherever it may be.

“My personal hope is that everyone gets the most out of (the Air Force DTC program),” said Marine Capt. Jim Shelstad, 1st EOD Company commander. The result is, “when (the Marines) step off the bus at Camp Pendleton, they’re that much closer to being decompressed and reintegrated back into the mainstream of society.”

But the DTC isn’t only about being reintegrated into society slowly and building resiliency; there is another part that as a whole helps the entire career field of those who attend the transition center.

“A big part of what we do in group discussions is find out what went wrong in their deployment; from beginning to end,” DeShone said.

They start with training, equipment and pre-deployment and then moving on to the deployment itself.

“These guys have enough to worry about when they are deployed and coming back,” DeShone said. “With that in mind we take the questions, problems and suggested changes they had and bring them straight to the top.”

They find out what went right or wrong ― the good, bad and the ugly. From there, the info goes directly to the person in charge of that career field at the headquarters level.

And now, with a few aesthetic face-lifts and the increased availability to take a host of different specialties through the center, the DTC continues to be committed to enduring care and building resiliency to all those who walk through its door.