CAMP ATTERBURY JOINT MANEUVER TRAINING CENTER, Ind. - A Soldier deploys for war. He does what he's trained for, what he's called on to do. He sees and feels extraordinary things while deployed, some of which may stick with him forever.

The Soldier grows used to the elevated levels of adrenaline and anxiety felt when deployed to a combat zone for a year at a time or more. Once returned home, he feels the lack of adrenaline, anxiety and sometimes fear. A sense of boredom can set in. He looks for outlets to expend this energy.

Unfortunately, there are many negative and/or dangerous outlets that may provide a fast answer for these servicemembers. Some Soldiers display high-risk behavior and turn to drugs or alcohol, drive at excessive speeds or even become violent.

According to the U.S. Army Combat Readiness/Safety Center, between October 2001 and October 2009, 287 Soldiers died from motor vehicle and personal injury accidents within one year of returning from deployment. Approximately 21 percent of these deaths occurred within the first 30 days of post-deployment and approximately 67 percent within 180 days of post-deployment.

It has become more apparent than ever that some wounds are deeper than flesh and blood and that something needs to be done to better help transition our combat veterans into home life.

Consequently, the Army Family, Morale, Welfare and Recreation Command created an outlet for returning Soldiers called the Warrior Adventure Quest. Team-building exercises, leadership development and stress management through extreme sports such as mountain biking, rock climbing, bungee jumping, scuba diving, kayaking, skiing, snowboarding etc., are offered to Soldiers returning from deployment. These high-paced activities are meant to give the Soldier the adrenaline rush he is missing while combining Battlemind Training.

Battlemind Training is the Army's psychological resiliency building program which helps Soldiers recognize and respond to fear during combat, then mitigate the cumulative effects of a sustained combat environment and become mentally prepared to reintegrate during the redeployment, post-deployment and reset portions of the deployment cycle, according to the FMWRC Public Affairs Office.

The WAQ program has been implemented with success for demobilizing Soldiers on 39 Army installations both nationally and abroad to more than 20,000 Soldiers.

"As a Soldier who has proudly served on multiple combat tours, I have had the privilege to see the power of WAQ and its potential to cultivate young Soldiers and leaders today," said Staff Sgt. Brenton Bulrice, FMWRC WAQ representative. "Although WAQ might not be the answer to all post-combat issues such as PTSD and [traumatic brain injury], I believe its holistic approach should serve as a model as the Army continues to identify and create programs to honor and empower Soldiers who are reluctant to reach out for professional help."

WAQ works closely with Army Medical Command, the Combat Readiness and Safety Center, Army Family Programs, Army Substance Abuse Program, Defense Manpower and Data Center as well as the Casualty and Mortuary Affairs Operations Center to track statistical data about participants and how WAQ has initiated positive changes in their behavior.

"Not only is WAQ intended to give Soldiers the ability to cope with the stresses of war before, during, and after deployments, it is also intended to help detect mental-health issues at home, before they spiral out of control," said Bulrice.

The Camp Atterbury Joint Maneuver Training Center in central Indiana will be the first National Guard and Reserve mobilization post to implement this program.

"We need to have an outlet for these Soldiers to give them a way to find another activity that isn't going to put their lives in jeopardy," said Camp Atterbury Joint Maneuver Training Center's top noncommissioned officer, Command Sgt. Maj. Rodney Spade. "Warrior Adventure Quest is a way to identify Soldiers that are at risk for injuring themselves or needing that high, and giving them another outlet to get that attitude or expression out of their system, helping them focus on other things. It gives them another way to go to help them in their integration back into society and back into their families."

Spade was asked by the FMWRC to help initiate a WAQ pilot program at Camp Atterbury and after months of planning, ground was broken in April on the eastside of the installation. Spade hopes to send the first Soldiers through the program by August. Four paintball courses, a 3.8-mile mountain bike trail and Alpine Towers with suspended ropes systems are under construction, providing Soldiers demobilizing through Camp Atterbury with a physically challenging, team-building, safe environment to exert some of the tensions built up during the course of deployment. Spade also plans to incorporate canoeing on the Big Blue River running through Camp Atterbury and a sheltered, 30-foot, rock-climbing wall.

"Our goal is to provide options to the demobilizing unit," said Spade. "We are trying to incorporate this into the demobilization process from here on out."

"The most important thing is these Soldiers heading into harm's way and coming back from theatre," he said. "That has always been my goal and objective, that we provide services and support to these people."

Spade said the program can also be a multi-purpose tool, providing additional uses for team building exercises among deploying units, traditional National Guard units conducting weekend and annual training as well as for Soldiers stationed at Camp Atterbury.

"The door is wide open for the possibilities on what we can actually do with this once we get it running," said Spade.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16