Soldiers say extreme sports best way to beat post-deployment blues
May 12, 2010
CAMP ATTERBURY JOINT MANEUVER TRAINING CENTER, Ind. (Army News Service, May 12, 2010) -- When Soldiers return from a battle zone, they can have trouble adjusting from the fast-paced, combat environment to the caterpillar-crawl of their everyday lives.
The Army has since introduced Warrior Adventure Quest, an extreme sports program that helps Soldiers transition from a combat environment to life back home.
The WAQ program, funded by the Army's Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Command, introduces Soldiers to high-adventure, high-adrenaline recreational activities such as skydiving, rock climbing, and bungee jumping to replace combat stresses.
Currently, only active-component units are participating in the program. But Camp Atterbury will soon become a testing ground for participation of Army National Guard and Reserve units.
At least two Soldiers at Camp Atterbury Joint Maneuver Training Center seem to already have the "jump" on these stress relieving sports.
Sgt. 1st Class Walter Butt, formerly the noncommissioned officer in charge of the Range Training Team, and Sgt. Nicholas Adams, the noncommissioned officer in charge of Outdoor Recreation here, are enthusiastic supporters of extreme sports, specifically skydiving and racing.
Butt, who has been to Airborne, Pathfinder, Sniper and Air Assault schools, is a self-proclaimed bull rider, scuba diver and race car driver. He also has 256 jumps as a skydiver. To say he has done it all is an understatement.
"I lifted weights competitively, I raced cars -- but nothing gave me the satisfaction like skydiving," he said.
"I don't have to drink and I do not have to smoke to calm my nerves. Once that door opens up, everything goes away," Butt said. "As I free-fall, I am free. It is one of the greatest experiences of my life."
During a jump at Jerry's Skydiving Circuit in Franklin, Ind., Butt sat calmly through the turbulence while the plane's engine roared as it climbed 9,500 feet, almost seven times higher than the Empire State Building.
When they reached the desired attitude, the door swung open and Butt leaped out, plunging through the air at about 120 mph for almost a minute before deploying his parachute.
Once on the ground, Butt said the reason he encourages Soldiers coming off of a deployment to skydive is that it helps to release built up adrenaline.
"Give it a try," he said. "It will fill the void and the rush you are striving to get, and besides the stress relief, the camaraderie from other jumpers will remind you of the close relationships you made when you were deployed," said Butt.
Like skydiving, pure stock car racing fills the void for Adams when he speeds by other stock cars at up to 80 mph around a dirt track.
Pure stock racing is similar to regular race car driving except in pure stock racing the drivers only use street vehicles that can be bought by the general public and the racing is on a dirt track. Adams said it's the purest form of car racing because there are no high performance parts alterations to the engine.
"It is almost like being back overseas, being outside the wire," he said. "It is an adrenaline rush, from your head to your toes."
His father encouraged him to give racing a try after demolition derby, hunting big game in Canada, and four-wheeling were found not suitable substitutes compared to the fast-paced environment of his overseas deployment, he said.
"When I came home from Iraq and I did not have that adrenaline any more, it messed with me a little bit," he said. "I went from being nervous and constantly on edge, to feeling sad and down, and you really do need something to replace those feelings."
"I definitely suggest looking into racing," he said. "It is an easy way to replace the rush so you are not down on yourself. But if not racing, do something to help the transition from constant adrenaline to nothing," he said.
While it may seem like a crazy way to relax, extreme sports are therapeutic for those who need an outlet for energy that doesn't die down. For Butt and Adams, extreme sports are just a way to leave your worries and stress in the wind.