Transition classes help service members come home

12 Dec 2000 | Cpl. Derek A. Shoemake

As Marines and Sailors from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) approach the end of their Mediterranean deployment, many will be returning to change. Some are more routine: a new stereo or car. Some are as major as a child they've never seen.

This is where Eva Betjemann and Debbie Anthony come in.

The two women are with Naval Station Norfolk, Va.'s Family Service Center. They are Dr. Ruth, Ralph Nader and Dr. Spock all wrapped into one. During the USS Saipan Amphibious Ready Group's passage across the Atlantic Ocean, they have been teaching classes on subjects ranging from cars to kids to sex.

"We cover everything," said Betjemann, a Pawcatuck, Conn. native and Transition Specialist, of the six classes offered: money management, buyer beware, returning to a child, car buying, homeward bound singles and reunion and intimacy.

"I think they're good classes," said Cpl. William Woods, a Jerseyville, Ill. native and Radio Operator with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable)'s Command Element. "They really open your eyes to some things you might not think about."

For Betjemann, many of these subjects are more than just thoughts. For example, in 1988, when she was 18 years old, she bought a new car without having any prior credit. That she had no co-signer meant she was stuck with an interest rate of 18 percent, almost triple the going interest rate at the time.

Betjemann, now divorced, has learned a few other things the difficult way. When she was younger she was married to a Sailor.

"I've been the one waiting on the pier," said Betjemann. "What I did not know then was how difficult this all was for him. But hindsight is 20/20, and I learned from my mistakes."

One of the things she learned was the importance of keeping in touch.

"When you deploy it is important to keep those lines of communication open," she said. "When you say you're going to call, you need to call."

Debbie Nelson, a Reidsville, N.C. native, who teaches the reunion and intimacy class for the married Marines and Sailors returning home, said steady communication is biggest key in easing the transition home.

"You have to develop that emotional bond again," said Nelson. "For some people that takes five minutes and others it takes a few weeks."

Nelson said her advice for those returning to new marriages is to relax and try not to force anything.

Most of the classes are geared those who have not often deployed, or those deploying for the first time after a major change. Both instructors point out this does not mean those who have amassed several deployments should not attend.

"I know there are a lot of seasoned deployers aboard ship," said Betjemann. "They may not need the class, but I am sure someone in the class could benefit from their experiences. They can make a good class better."