From the time of their arrival in Wiesbaden, West Germany, the 52 former hostages will have about 10 to 14 days to "decompress" and be welcomed home before they pick up the lives they left in November 1979.
Doctors and State Department officials have been at work for months making plans for how this time should be spent, what would happen in private, what would happen in public and when events would take place. However, because of the change in presidents, many of the plans made for the former hostages' return to this country are still tentative.
The 50 men and two women will spend between three days and one week "decompressing" at the Air Force hospital in Wiesbaden, according to State Department officials. The top priorities, officials say, are giving the group medical examinations and giving them a chance to telephone families.
Therafter, "a lot depends on the shape that people are in," said Jack Harrod, a spokesman for the State Department's Iran Working Group. "Obviously we are going to want to debrief them on what they had gone through."
Psychiatrists have said the former hostages will need time during the first days to meet with each other and discuss the impact of their experience -- to try and write some sort of end to that phase of their lives and prepare to take up where they left off.
When they leave Wiesbaden, according to State Department officials, the hostages will be flown to an "undisclosed location" in the United States for a private one- or two-day reunion with their families. The families will gather, probably in Washington, about a day before return of their relatives and fly to the site of the reunion. The families will get there first to welcome the former hostages when they arrive, according to State Department spokesman Joe Reap.
After the private time, they will then be flown to Washington to accept the public greetings of the president and the countrt. In October, when it seemed that the hostages' return might be imminent, families were informed there would be a ceremonial welcome at Andrews Air Force Base, welcoming receptions in the White House and the State Department and a thanksgiving service at Washington Cathedral.
Louisa Kenney, press aide for the families' umbrella group, said yesterday afternoon that a service at the cathedral was likely, and State Department officials said there would almost certainly be a formal welcome at the department and the White House.
A spokesman at the White House press office said late yesterday, "I'm sure President Reagan will personally want to greet the hostages, but in what manner I'm not sure yet."