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AIR FORCE September 3, 2009
By CPL Andrew Hetherington
WHEN personnel return from
their deployments in the MEAO they
don't just hand in their weapons and
body armour, jump on a plane and fly
home to Australia.
A process run by the staff of the
Force Support Unit (FSU 2) to access
post-deployment mental and physi-
cal wellbeing takes place at Billabong
Flats barracks before departure.
cal screening (RTAPS) and return-to-
Australia medical screening (RTAMS)
are two important steps members must
undertake before receiving their ticket
FSU 2 medical officer CAPT Robin
Chan said RTAMS assesses ADF per-
sonnel for any injury or illnesses they
might have picked up while they were
"We ask them if they were exposed
to any hazardous substances and also
ensure they are given all appropriate
medication for malaria and parasite
eradication such as worms," she said.
"Specifically, we look for any signs
of parasites on the skin and we give
them a general health check."
Returning members will first fill
out a medical questionnaire and then
see a medic, where their temperature
and blood pressure is taken and their
weight is compared with their recorded
weight to see if it has fluctuated during
A visit to the doctor is next, where
members will be asked a number of
"I ask how was their trip and if they
ran into any health problems," CAPT
Common complaints from return-
ing personnel are back and headaches
and some have trouble sleeping.
"If we do detect something that
involves the muscular or skeletal sys-
tem, we usually start treatment here
and make recommendations that the
member has follow-up treatment when
they get home."
She said that for the RTAMS proc-
ess to work effectively, it was essential
that members were honest with medi-
"This is completely vital for us
to effectively treat someone's health
"As doctors, we not only have the
members' best interests at heart, but
we also have to look out for what's
best for the operation or capability as
On the psychological side, MAJ
Nick Wallace said the RTAPS process
began with a questionnaire.
"It takes about 15 minutes to fill
in, and then the member has an inter-
view with either a psych examiner or
psychologist," MAJ Wallace said.
"This gives them a chance to talk
about the high and low points of their
deployment and is an opportunity for
them to open up and talk about any-
thing traumatic, negative or interest-
ing they have come across.
"Also, we want to know what they
learnt during the deployment."
He said he could organise psych
support for members before and after
they return to Australia, if necessary.
If personnel need assistance, support
will begin at Billabong Flats, but more
intensive treatment will take place
back in Australia.
"We refer personnel to ADF psy-
chological services at home, veterans'
counselling services and, if there is a
need for psychiatric assessment or a
need to see a padre, we can organise
that too," MAJ Wallace said.
He said he understood that there
was a bit of stigma about seeing a
psych and some people thought that
if they had a problem they might get
stuck in the MEAO.
"This is definitely not the case.
"The process would actually be
sped up if there was something critical
going on," he said.
IMPORTANT APPOINTMENT: CAPT
Robin Chan conducts an RTAMS interview
with an ADF member before he returns to
Photo: CPL Andrew Hetherington
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