Initially in his Army career, Col. Jon Coffin (Ret.) served as a Signal Platoon Leader and mobile consultant across Southeast Asia from 1968-1970. He joined the Vermont National Guard in 1973. During his lengthy career in the Guard, he served in a wide range of positions, from XO of Vermont’s Medical Platoon to the honor of commanding Vermont’s singularly elite 3/172 Mountain Infantry Battalion in the early 1990s. For the last 19 years he served in the capacity of the Vermont Guard’s Staff Psychologist. Based upon his longtime service as a civilian counseling Fire Service and Police Officers, he adapted an approach to formally Debrief returning soldiers at the Platoon/Unit level. Coffin and his Critical Incident Team debriefed nearly every Vermont soldier returning from overseas, including Vermont troops deployed with other Guard and Reserve Units, and other States’ soldiers. In addition, for the better part of the last ten years, he consulted with soldiers prior to departure to Iraq and Afghanistan, often for repeated tours. The Team was constantly deployed to one of 12 different Army debarkation locations around the country, provided 106 small-unit level Debriefings, and consulted with soldiers during their week-long debarkation process. Six months ago Colonel Coffin retired with 49 years of Army Service at which time he was awarded the Legion of Merit for distinguished service.
In addition to his work for the Vermont National Guard, Coffin worked for HowardCenter, Burlington, Vermont’s 1100-staff community mental health center for 40 years, first as an alcohol and drug counselor, then starting the first social detox center in Vermont in 1975. He is a Licensed Psychologist-Master and Licensed Clinical Social Worker, as well as a Vermont Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor. He was appointed Outpatient Director in 1980, and served in that role until the recent wars began. HowardCenter uniquely distinguished itself, donating increasing amounts of his time to work in uniform as Clinical Consultant to Vermont National Guard soldiers during times of deployment and re-entry. Coffin also worked with grieving families and fellow soldiers dealing with issues related to multiple combat deaths and suicides of comrades in arms. He finished his formal service last year, 18 months after the Mountain-Infantry Brigade, Vermont’s culminating deployment, to physically, psychologically, and spiritually recover from their Iraq and Afghanistan tours. An article on Coffin’s work with The Guard was featured in the January/February 2013 issue of Yankee magazine.