Tag Archives: therapy

Therapy on four legs

By Tech. Sgt. Peter Miller
440th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

121111-F-XW024-001Air Force Reserve Capt. Allyson Dossman played an integral role on a surgical team during a deployment to Afghanistan, but still had a lot on her plate when she returned home to Massachusetts in January 2013.

She married another Air Force Reserve officer and started making plans to move with him to Georgia. Before leaving for the South, Dossman had to complete a few more shifts at her civilian nursing job at Boston Medical Center, which maintains the busiest emergency room in New England. Her job was always challenging, but she thought she had seen the last of shrapnel wounds when she returned to America.

Then came the bombing attacks near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on Patriots’ Day on April 15, 2013. Patriots’ Day is the state holiday commemorating the first battles of the Revolutionary War. Dossman was on duty at the Boston Medical Center trauma center when they began to get inundated with injured runners and spectators. Though she cared for some of the less critical patients, she recalled that week being very difficult and a joyless time for hospital staff until an employee brought in a puppy that happened to be a therapy dog in training.

“This random boxer came out of nowhere,” said Dossman. “I was like, ‘What are you doing here, buddy?’ Everybody swarmed this poor dog. The hospital received presents, baskets, thank you cards, especially from local schools. But, for me, it was that dog that made things okay.”

Dossman’s research has shown that petting a dog has been linked to reduced blood pressure, lowered heart rate and an increased sense of well-being. When she was deployed, Dossman looked forward to visits from a military working dog handler who brought his German Shepherd to the hospital after rough days. She said the visits were therapeutic and became one of the highlights of her deployment.

About a month after the attack,  Dossman moved to Georgia and joined the 413th Aeromedical Staging Squadron at Robins Air Force Base, Ga., as a traditional Air Force reservist. She also found fulltime employment with an organization that offers psychological health services to reservists. The Psychological Health Advocacy Program is marketed through the Air Force Reserve Yellow Ribbon Program, which promotes the well-being of reservists and their families by connecting them with resources before and after deployments at a series of training weekends around the country. The program began in 2008 following a congressional mandate for the Department of Defense to assist reservists and National Guard members in maintaining resiliency as they transition between their military and civilian roles.

PHOTO: Capt. Allyson Dossman poses with Basco, a military working dog, at Forward Operating Base Lagman, Afghanistan, during her deployment to the Miranda Trauma Center Forward Surgical Team in 2013. (Courtesy photo)

TBI and PTSD: ‘There is no shame in getting help’

by Tech. Sgt. Chuck Walker, 436th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
edited by Meredith March, Defense Media Activity Air Force Production

As high profile cases have emerged about National Football League players and other athletes sustaining brain injuries, and as the nation has watched veterans return home from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder have become hot topics.


Master Sgt. Jennifer Allara, an explosive ordnance disposal team leader at Dover Air Force Base, has experienced both.

In Sept. 2009, Allara’s EOD team at Provincial Reconstruction Farah, Afghanistan, was ambushed while out on patrol. A teammate, Staff Sgt. Bryan Berky, was killed by a sniper during the attack. For Allara, it was a wake-up call.

“We are trained to accept a certain amount of danger with our job,” she said. “I always thought in terms of me; what if something happens to me? What if we get blown up? I wasn’t thinking in terms of losing a team member in a turret.”

Upon her return from Afghanistan, Allara went to mental health and sought therapy when she began experiencing symptoms of TBI and PTSD. For her, it seemed to bring about more questions than answers.

Determined to heal, Allara recently began treatment at the National Intrepid Center of Excellence in Bethesda, Md. She will undergo four weeks of analysis and leave the center with a care plan designed to meet her needs.

Allara hopes that her example will compel others to seek help if they are experiencing problems when they return from deployment.

“There is no shame in getting help,” she said. “There is no shame in recognizing what is going on with someone and being able to reach out and help. If you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of your Airmen.”

For more on this story, click here.