Redeploying Soldiers use paintball to blow off steam
February 15, 2009
WHEELER ARMY AIRFIELD, Hawaii - Paintballs ricocheted off inflatable barriers as 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team Soldiers bobbed and weaved, trying their best to miss paint-filled projectiles.
More than 25 Soldiers dodged racing paintballs and shot back as they participated in numerous games of speedball at the Paintball Hawaii field, here, Feb. 7, as part of Warrior Adventure Quest, or WAQ program.
The WAQ program offers an outlet for returning Soldiers to blow off steam, pump up adrenaline and let go of anger by participating in a high-adventure activity in an outdoor setting. These types of activities have proven to mitigate boredom and high-risk behavior, according to Rich Robinson, assistant manager for the Schofield Barracks Outdoor Recreation Center.
Roland Manahan, owner and founder of Paintball Hawaii, agreed.
"Being a veteran myself, I wish they had this type of training when I came back from war," said Manahan. "Trying to decompress from the threat we experience can be tough. This is good for the Soldiers and good for their families."
Soldiers crawled between barriers, practicing close-quarter combat and shoot, move-and-communicate battle techniques. Participants shouted words of encouragement at teammates and focused on the task at hand - eliminating the opposing team.
Spc. Sharon McKenna, the lone female in the group, ran across the field, narrowly missed by paintballs.
"I can hold my own," she joked. "This is a nice change of pace."
All redeploying Soldiers are mandated to participate in the WAQ program within the first 90 days of returning home.
Richardson explained, the "mandatory fun" is aimed to slowly reintegrate Soldiers back into mainstream society by matching the stress level Soldiers experienced downrange in a positive way.
"Soldiers push themselves downrange," said Richardson. "We want them to do the same here. There are no limitations."
"This is a great way to get to know your fellow Soldier," said Staff Sgt. Erich Harp. "We can let off steam and have fun."
"We are trained and designed for battle, but when we come out here we can debrief," said Staff Sgt. John Sheffield. "We apply what we know and take a course of action, and even though adrenaline is pumping through our veins, it is fun.
"It's an excellent way to work off anger," added Sheffield.
Additionally, Soldiers were briefed throughout the day on battlemind psychology and resiliency, and making progress toward achieving a new normal.
Soldiers listened as commanders and subject matter experts spoke regarding their own redeployment experiences.
"I was angry when I returned," said Maj. Adelaido Godinez, rear detachment commander, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team. "I had a hard time asking for help, but I needed it."
Godinez expressed the importance of seeking help during the reintegration period, from either fellow Soldiers or experts. He said aiding fellow Soldiers and recognizing if they need assistance is important, as well.
"You are all leaders," said Godinez. "Help your fellow Soldier."
Outdoor Recreation offers numerous activities as part of the WAQ program, including a ropes course, surfing, stand-up paddling and hiking. Each adventure brings camaraderie to returning Soldiers and starts them on a path to a healthy reintegration. However, teamwork is essential.
Staff Sgt. Cory Winkelman said teamwork doesn't happen until you see the value in it.
"This is a way to re-learn teamwork in a different setting and work on getting yourself back," said Winkelman. "The best part ... out here, rank doesn't matter."
For more information on the Warrior Adventure Quest program, call the Outdoor Recreation Center at 808-655-0143.