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Peak looks to help people returning from high stress deployments

Published Feb. 25, 2014
“Pick up a pencil with your opposite hand,” said Jim Peak, chief of construction. “Now, write your name with it. How does it feel?” 

This is one of the ways Peak explains reintegration, or the process people undertake when they need to readjust after returning home from extended periods of unfamiliar or high stress experiences. The process was recently detailed in the publication Introduction to Type and Reintegration. Peak said the publication is used to provide guidance and assist service members returning home from deployments. “Every person returning from an overseas assignment goes through a period of reintegration to find their ‘new normal,’” he said. 

Peak has been a Corps civilian for more than 38 years and is a veteran of tours in Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Japan. From these deployments, he said he’s gained an understanding of what adjustments are needed when returning home and has combined this understanding with his passion for people, their personality types and how different personality types work together. 

These personality types he is referring to are the 16 Myers-Briggs personality types, commonly referred to as MBTI. The MBTI are used to measure how people perceive and make decisions in the world and base it on the type preferences extraversion, introversion, sensing, intuition, thinking, feeling, judging and perceiving. Peak said he made the connection between type and reintegration after returning home from Iraq in 2003. Since this realization, he said he’s been pushing to help others that have to go through the reintegration or ‘coming home’ adjustments.  

“An individual’s personality type significantly impacts how they adjust when returning home,” said Peak. “And it touches several areas of reintegration including a person’s understanding of themselves and others, the way they communicate, have relationships, make decisions, handle conflicts, learn etc.” 

Peak’s co-authors, Katherine and Elizabeth Hirsh, collaborated with him to provide material specifically for service members and not just the individuals who work with them or have them as loved ones. He said this is why the book applies directly and speaks directly to service members. 

Peak said his wake-up call happened after deploying to Iraq. “Even after dealing with reintegration first hand several times, he said, each process is unique, depending on where you deploy to, where you come back to and if you have family deploy with you.” 

After receiving his MBTI certification, Peak said he went to a weekend retreat for service members and their spouses and introduced type and its benefits in the reintegration process. “Everyone has to reintegrate at some point in their life, but my focus has always been supporting service members and their families” he said.  

Most people don’t know that the Army culture is more represented in certain personality types, which is important in figuring out how they reintegrate verses other types. This led to Peak’s further involvement with the Type community in the Twin Cities and eventually the connection with the co-authors of the publication Introduction to Type and Reintegration for CPP, Inc. “It took many late nights writing things down, organizing thoughts and getting something ready for printing,” said Peak. It was published for three focus groups: the deployee, the support group such as family or friends and the support professionals. 

“Our main goal,” said Elizabeth, “was to help people recognize their natural personality or style through MBTI and then utilize this information to make sense of their deployment and how the experience fits with civilian or non-deployment lives.” Katherine said they wanted to show “people that there were 16 ways of making the transition home. This knowledge might help someone returning to recognize the need to find their own way to reintegrate. “We wanted to empower them to seek what works for them, not simply what society, family, military buddies, professionals or official sources recommend,” she said. 

Elizabeth said they wanted to provide reintegration guidance that is specific to their personality, and in a way that honors their uniqueness, honors their experience, as well as uses their personal style, as a foundation to create strategies for future relationships and careers. 

“‘How did writing with your opposite hand feel?’ said Peak, ‘Awkward? Challenging?’” He said it represents reintegration as a self awareness, as something that can be positive, not negative. He added that If you approach it like you’re writing your name with your opposite hand for instance, you can think about and recognize how you would normally process reintegration.