KAHULUI, Hawaii –
Soldiers from the 9th Mission Support Command are delivering behavioral health support and relief at the Kaoru Moto U.S. Army Reserve Center in Wailuku to Soldiers impacted by the destructive Maui wildfires that came through the towns of Lahaina and Kula, and threatened areas in Kihei on Aug. 8, 2023.
In response to the devastating wildfires, Soldiers assigned to the 9th Mission Support Command and members of Task Force Pueo (TF-Pueo), were mobilized. Their primary mission is to provide crucial support to Soldiers directly impacted by the wildfires, by ensuring their physical and emotional well-being during this challenging time. The team offers a range of support including crisis prevention intervention, harm reduction, and risk mitigation.
“We want to make sure people can process what is going on, whether it be grief, whether it be sadness, joy, pain, without judgment,” said Lt. Col Dennis Mobley, the officer in charge of the Crisis Support Team and a Behavioral Nurse with the 1984th USHD. “Just understand that this is a time for you to heal, a time for you to get help. We’re here to help.”
In a proactive effort, the Crisis Support Team has transitioned from a Behavioral Health unit to the Crisis Support Team. The change is a strategic decision to encourage Soldiers who might otherwise be uncomfortable seeking access to behavioral health services to take part in the program. The change also actively combats the stigma associated with mental health challenges.
“Sometimes you need a fresh approach, sometimes it’s the same approach, just packaged differently,” said Staff Sgt. Terry M. Jasper Jr., the behavior health non-commissioned officer in charge of the Crisis Support Team. “We are responding to a crisis, your response to a crisis manifests in so many ways. Your thought process is always going to dictate what you do, how you feel. It’s going to give you every blueprint for what you’re going to do in response to that crisis.”
Since arriving on Maui, the Crisis Support Team has been offering psycho-social education to soldiers who have been affected by the tragedy. They have been equipping them with stress management tools and sleep hygiene tips while also providing a safe space for them to discuss the aftermath of the incident.
“It’s been challenging, but in a positive way,” said Jasper Jr. “I’ve gotten to see the response to our psycho-social education classes which has been positive for the most part. I’ve gotten to see Soldiers learn, and seeing that thought process change a little bit has been very encouraging.”
Observing the impact transition has had on Soldiers and their mental wellbeing has been motivating for the Crisis Support Team. “More than anything I just hope we were able to be helpful,” said Mobley. “That we made a difference, even just a little bit in this time of unfathomable loss for them.”
TF Pueo was formed in support of support of, Joint Task Force 50 (JTF-50), composed Maui County authorities, the Hawaii Army and Air National Guard, U.S. Army active duty, U.S. Army Reserve, and the U.S. Navy, and is dedicated to the safety and recovery of affected Maui residents, coordinating with local first responders, and adhering strictly to local, state, and federal guidelines and laws.