Paintball has a healing affect
February 26, 2010
FORT SILL, Okla. - One hundred and twenty recently redeployed Soldiers from 100th Brigade Support Battalion released stress, forged new friendships and learned to work together as a team thanks to the Warrior Adventure Quest program.
The Soldiers broke up into groups of 30 and played paintball at the Arena Paintball Park in Lawton. Each group spent a day learning to communicate and work together as a team Feb. 16 through 22.
"The Warrior Adventure Quest is a resiliency program for redeployed Soldiers. It combines training and high-adventure activities and a leader-lead after-action debrief with the ultimate goal of building cohesion and esprit de corps," said Lara Rigby, outdoor recreation program manager. "It really emphasizes training of leaders and how to do the after-action debrief facilitating a conversation with their Soldiers after any event, but especially a traumatic event, where they help Soldiers overcome and move on to continue Soldiering."
Staff Sgt. Kenneth Ott, A Company, 100th BSB, who came back from Iraq in November, said, "It helped me mingle and form a bond with other Soldiers in the unit who I didn't know. I've been with the same people for a year in Iraq, and it was a big change to come back and not see those same people every day."
Ott said the program helped him as a leader for the Soldiers in his unit. "As a leader this program helps me know which of our folks might need help. The debrief also helped a lot because it helped everyone open up a little better to start a discussion with them."
According to Rigby, Soldier training is all about resiliency and learning to deal with combat and operational stress. The Warrior Adventure Quest teaches Soldiers the importance of adaptive behaviors to stress with an end result of healthy post traumatic growth. They learn to take trauma and turn it into growth or a positive outcome.
"Paintball, like combat, has teamwork and communication involved without the consequences," she said. "The team experiences ties between playing and experiences you can learn from. Part of resiliency is self-confidence," said Rigby. "These Soldiers can be more themselves with recreation and there's a greater opportunity to learn because they're open to learning and growth.
Sgt. Brandon Piersol, also with A Company, 100th BSB, deployed to Africa last year.
"The Warrior Adventure Quest paintball was a good stress release for all the Soldiers. It taught them the value of team building, problem solving and the importance of everyone working together," he said.
The debrief was very helpful to Piersol and the other Soldiers.
"The Soldiers put in good information on how communication between squads is necessary to get the job done. If you don't have good communication you can't work together without that cohesion between all members."
According to Ott, the unit has just regrouped and many of the Soldiers are coming back from deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan and playing paintball together gave them the opportunity to get to know each other in a relaxed and fun way.
"We also have Soldiers who are new to the unit. Playing paintball together allowed us to see the weaknesses and strength of others and to find out who needs more work in becoming a member of a cohesive team. It's a good activity to do to get to know each other."
Ott said the program helps Soldiers and NCO's to deal with stress in a healthy way.
"It brought the unit morale and spirits up and made them all feel good," he said. "It lifted everybody's spirits all around. I think every unit that gets redeployed should do it because when you get back from deployments there are stresses in your everyday life including getting used to going to work every day and getting back into a routine. It gives your body and mind a day off from the usual work day and it's good for me and those around me."
Rigby said recreation is therapeutic. "With recreation, people drop their masks and they're more open and themselves. They come together as a team," she said.
"I think it's a great stress reliever for a Soldier who just got back and is getting used to regular life," said Piersol. "I believe it is therapeutic. It could help people open up and talk to each other."
I would recommend it to other Soldiers because this kind of program helps the Soldiers deal with the stress of redeployment, broadens their horizons, lets the different people get a feel for adventures and gives them an activity to do together, said Ott.
Ott and Piersol said paintball was an excellent team activity for the program that would also apply the teamwork and cohesion principles such as hiking or rock climbing.
"I think rappelling or river rafting would be cool," said Ott.
According to Rigby, other team programs these Soldiers can participate in include the ropes course training, indoor rock climbing and there is a potential for summer water activities.
Any unit recently back from deployment that is interested in doing recreation activities through this program should call Rigby at 442-3575 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to set up a program for their Soldiers.