Chris Atkins will help bring peace-of-mind to the soldiers fighting on the front lines in Iraq. As a non-combat army social worker, Atkins will be helping soldiers in Iraq cope with combat stress such as anger, marital problems, nervousness, family separation, and redeployment. The assistant Social Work and Family Studies professor at Southern Adventist University and captain in the United States Army Medical Corp., has been placed on active duty, which began July 1 and will last 400 days. He is currently training at Fr. McCoy, Wisconsin and is preparing to deploy to Iraq with the 785th Medical Company (Combat Stress Control) late in August.

“I’ll be working closely with psychologists, chaplains, and fellow social workers to provide social, emotional, and spiritual support to soldiers stationed in Iraq,” said Atkins.

Combat stress is a temporary reaction to war but can lead to Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome.

“Combat stress is the normal behavior of normal people to an abnormal situation,” explained Atkins.

Atkins joined the army in 2002 having been influenced by his father’s experience as a combat medic in the Vietnam War and the difficulties he faced coming back to the United States.

“During Vietnam, we didn’t have the resources that we have now,” said Atkins. “My goal in this conflict is to address the stressors while they are happening as to prevent future social and emotional problems.”

This will be Atkins’ first tour of duty in Iraq. Over the past five years he has worked with army families in the United States to help them cope with the stress of having a loved one gone for an extended period of time. Now he has prepared his own family. Atkins made bedtime story videos, voice recordings for Build-a-Bears, and bought “daddy is here” maps for his daughters, Hannah, 7 and Grace, 5, to prepare them for their father’s long trip to Iraq. To make his time away a little sweeter, Hannah and Grace each have a jar with 400 Hershey Kiss chocolate candies. Each day they’ll get to eat one of the kisses as a countdown until the day when they can kiss their father again.

To learn about Atkins’ experiences during his time in Iraq, visit his blog at ( ).

Home to more than 2,500 students, Southern is a graduate and undergraduate coeducational university. The academic program consists of seven graduate degrees, 58 baccalaureate degrees, 17 associate degrees, and one certificate program. Southern Adventist University is part of the largest Protestant education system in the world. Seventh-day Adventists operate more than 6,500 schools worldwide, including 90 universities and colleges.

Source: The NewsChannel 9, ABC/WTVC, Chattanooga, Tennessee/USA