Warrior Adventure Quest program provides adrenaline rush
May 5, 2011
FORT CARSON, Colo., May 5, 2011 -- After his first and second deployments, 1st Lt. Jon Morgan, 64th Brigade Support Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, was left to transition to the home front by himself.
That unit, at another duty station, didn't provide the level of reintegration services that he experienced at Fort Carson, he said.
Like many Soldiers and servicemembers, Morgan said he struggled adapting to the slower pace home life offered.
"One minute you're on a plane, the next you're off and with your family," he said. "A lot of us were sitting around figuring out if we were all going through the same thing."
Morgan discovered solace in fly fishing, traveling the rivers around New York and Tennessee.
Many servicemembers, however, found different ways to chase the "adrenaline rush" of combat.
"In 2005 there was a recognition that there were an alarming number of accidents that were killing Soldiers," said John O'Sullivan, program manager for Army-wide outdoor recreation and Warrior Adventure Quest. "We realized Soldiers were looking for the high adrenaline they had in combat."
There was a challenge put out to all the armed forces and recreation professionals to help alleviate the problem. We said, 'If they want adrenaline, let's give it to them.'"
O'Sullivan partnered with Morale Welfare and Recreation in 2007 to create the Warrior Adventure Quest program, which introduces redeployed Soldiers to high-adrenaline activities like whitewater rafting, paintball and challenge and high ropes courses.
In April, O'Sullivan traveled to Fort Carson to help facilitate Warrior Adventure Quest activities with Soldiers from 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division.
Col. Jim Rainey, commander of 3rd BCT, said he had his Soldiers participate in the Warrior Adventure Quest program as part of their reintegration strategy.
"When combined with the other elements of our two-week intensive, comprehensive Soldier fitness based program, (Warrior Adventure Quest is) a powerful way to get Soldiers involved and interacting with one another," Rainey said. "It's important for our Soldiers to have healthy outlets. (Warrior Adventure Quest) exposes our young men and women to activities they may not have otherwise experienced, and demonstrates healthy and positive ways to get an adrenaline rush."
"This is getting all of us together to have fun," said Morgan, who recently returned from his third deployment and participated in a Warrior Adventure Quest paintball session. "It allows us to see where our strengths and weaknesses are."
Soldiers from 3rd BCT also climbed rock walls, skied and zip lined.
"I love to party," said Sgt. Robert Smith, 3rd Battalion, 29th Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd BCT, 4th Inf. Div., who zip lined at an April 28 Warrior Adventure Quest event. "Zip lining, it's something different than what I usually do. There are a lot of things you can do to get yourself out of the barracks."
O'Sullivan said the goal of Warrior Adventure Quest was not just to give Soldiers an adrenaline rush.
"In order to take part in any high-adrenaline activity, it requires thinking," O'Sullivan said. "These activities force them to think, and we hope that carries over into other areas of life."
Since 2009, Warrior Adventure Quest coordinators have measured the success of the program with pre- and post-action surveys that measured Soldiers' attitudes toward the Army and Morale Welfare and Recreation.
"It is working," said O'Sullivan, adding that more than 60,000 Soldiers have participated in the program since 2007.
"This is absolutely beneficial from a behavioral health standpoint," said Carl Smith, branch chief of the combat and operational stress control branch in the Department of Behavioral Sciences at the Army Medical Department at Fort Sam Houston, Texas.
Smith joined O'Sullivan to observe the Warrior Adventure Quest activities at Fort Carson.
"After deployments, Soldiers have what the experts call a 'new normal,'" he said. "Needs drive behavior. If you have a need for more adrenaline, you better find ways to fulfill that need rather than going down to the local pub and getting into bar fights."
Despite the accolades from mental health professionals, O'Sullivan said many higher-ups in the military do not see adrenaline activities as beneficial for troops.
"We do have commanders who don't buy into it and their Soldiers suffer," O'Sullivan said. "We've asked ourselves, 'Are we just feeding the beast or are we addressing the problem''"
O'Sullivan said the important difference between Warrior Adventure Quest activities and adventure sports is the discussion that takes place afterward.
"None of this works unless you talk about it," he said. "By creating a discussion and talking about it, you start processing it. A lot of problems these guys have (result in Soldiers) shutting down. We're hoping these (activities) help break down communication barriers."
Troops from 3rd BCT said the activities are helping their transition.
"This builds teamwork," said 1st Sgt. Edgar McGaughey, Company E, 1st Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment, 3rd BCT, 4th Inf. Div. "We're trying to make sure that we're adapting to civilian life after deployment. This lets us bond in a more relaxed setting."
O'Sullivan said he hopes the program will continue to grow and more commanders will request the program for their Soldiers. O'Sullivan also hopes Warrior Adventure Quest activities will become part of the Army's pre-deployment training.
"We're not here for ourselves," he said. "This is all about the Soldier."