Program offers adrenaline rush
October 10, 2013
FORT CARSON, Colo. -- For Soldiers returning from deployment, readjusting to the slower pace of life outside a combat zone can be challenging. That's where the Warrior Adventure Quest, a program funded by the Department of Defense, comes in.
"It's an Armywide program that was developed several years ago when the Army was starting to see trends that Soldiers were coming back and committing what we consider self-destructive behaviors," said Trevor McConnell, program director, outdoor recreation adventure programs and education.
The program offers units returning from deployments the opportunity, free of cost, to experience high-adrenaline activities, such as downhill mountain biking, skiing and snowboarding, white-water rafting, paintball and rock climbing.
"There are opportunities out there. You don't need to go race your car. You don't need to go race your motorcycle," McConnell said. "There are ways that you can provide yourself that same adrenaline rush with your buddies in a much safer environment and pick up a new hobby or (improve) the skill that you already have."
When Spc. Robert Norway, 1st Platoon, 497th Engineer Company, 52nd Engineer Battalion, returned from block leave after deployment, his unit held a paintball tournament under the program.
"I think the way we had it set up was perfect," he said. "Everyone got back from block leave. Everyone came back together again, and it was a good time to do some team building. Instead of just coming straight back into Army stuff, you were able to relax and get together as a group, build some cohesion."
The program allows any unit returning from deployment to participate in a program, for up to 120 days after the end of block leave, but they can also go before block leave begins.
"We are certainly happy to do it before they go on block leave," McConnell said. "That's a really ideal time frame, because, statistically speaking … that's when they're really getting themselves into some self-destructive behaviors."
Units don't have to have deployed to a warzone to participate in the program, either.
"They don't necessarily have to have been in a hostile work environment in order to be eligible," he said.
"(The DOD) really just wants to make sure that Soldiers understand that there are a lot of things out there."
Another benefit to the program is the camaraderie that can develop.
"With something like skiing, even if they've never gone, it's so fun to see their co-Soldiers help them learn how to snowboard, help them learn how to ski, and help them through that process.
And the stories you hear at the end of the day are pretty priceless," said McConnell.
When the 497th Eng. played the paintball tournament, they mixed the teams up, giving Soldiers an opportunity to play with people they might not have otherwise played with.
"You weren't always playing with one set of people. The teamwork was worth it," said Spc. Eli Ku, 2nd Platoon.
If some Soldiers in a unit want to do one activity, but others want to do something different, the group can be divided up, McConnell said.
A few years ago, the program had 1,200 Soldiers come through in two weeks.
"The commander was very supportive, and he decided, 'I really want all my Soldiers to go through this before block leave,'" McConnell said. "We brought in resources from other bases to help us out with that."
The program is another way for commanders to take care of their Soldiers.
"How can you pass up an opportunity to give your Soldiers … a duty day where they go out, and they get to wear civilian clothes, and they get to have fun?" he said.
"Some people do come in with the mentality of mandatory fun, but I have yet to meet someone who … leaves the day with that same (mindset). They really did enjoy it. It was something totally different from what they thought it was going to be."