Deployed Soldier uses Salsa dancing to help cope with combat environment
September 25, 2009
CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE SPEICHER, TIKRIT, Iraq - Rhythmic beats infused with lively trumpets and bells blaring from multiple speakers gave the crowd at the Morale, Welfare and Recreation center's Salsa Night the motivation to dance the anxieties of deployment away.
For one Soldier in attendance, Sgt. James Whorley, 23, a Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division imagery analyst, of Sacramento, Calif., the passionate and lively Salsa night serves more to relieve stress and increase confidence.
For Whorley, fascination with the Latino culture started in his high school Spanish class.
"When I was in high school my Spanish teacher really exposed us to the Latino culture and traditions. One day out of the year, she would have an instructor come to teach Salsa to our class. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to really learn the dance at that time," he said.
"This fascination with the culture and the passion behind the dance stuck with me...so when I was deployed to Kirkuk, I saw a flier advertising Salsa lessons and I knew I had to attend," he continued.
After his deployment in the Kirkuk province, Whorley went back to Hawaii and participated in the local Salsa clubs five to six times a week to better hone his newly found dancing ability.
"With me being an introvert by nature, I learned that through Salsa I have the confidence to express myself. I can interact with people I didn't know more smoothly, and really just be more social," he said.
Whorley described how successful Salsa dancing consists of male to female harmony and how he actually learned how to respect women more as a result.
"I have learned that the key to great Salsa dancing is mutual respect...when I am dancing with my female partner I have to show her respect to create the trust necessary for our movements and steps to be fluid," he said.
"I have applied this concept to my daily relationships. Say for instance in a marriage you have to trust each other that the one will not disrespect or harm the other... everything is done in a successful harmony," he continued.
During his second deployment to Iraq, Whorley kept an attentive eye for any advertisement that would allow him to continue his Salsa passion. He found that the MWR center on COB Speicher provided lively Salsa events every Friday night.
Worley noticed the difference in his stress level whenever he missed a Salsa night and realized that dancing had given him an outlet to release his stress.
"I always anticipate Friday night...because no matter how hard a week I've had I can listen and get lost in the music. This allows me to forget all my problems and relieve that stress that was built up," he said.
"The importance of every deployed Soldier having a stress relieving outlet can actually prevent or treat combat stress and post traumatic stress disorders. Having these outlets in place for Soldiers to escape and clear the mind will eliminate or help deter the buildup of stress," he said.
He added that the build-up of stress in a Soldier's life can lead to a multitude of negative results. Of these the most prevalent are marital problems, suicides, homicides, and drug or alcohol abuse upon returning from deployment. But having an activity to release that stress and replace that void with positive activities will help Soldiers in the long run.
Due to his passion of sharing with others the benefits of experiencing Salsa and its stress-relieving ability, Whorley says he wants to move to Virginia and open up his very own studio and Salsa club.
"I want to teach people how to dance and open my facilities in the evenings to allow others to come and enjoy the music," he said.