Former NBA referee visits Fort Benning
June 6, 2012
By VINCE LITTLE
FORT BENNING, Ga. (June 6, 2012) -- A former undercover New Jersey state trooper who went on to spend 25 years as an NBA referee returned to Fort Benning last week to share his message of resilience, leadership and struggles with post-traumatic stress.
Bob Delaney, author of the book Surviving the Shadows: A Journey of Hope into Post-Traumatic Stress, gave a presentation Thursday to Maneuver Captains Career Course students and cadre in Derby Auditorium at McGinnis-Wickam Hall. Now an ambassador for the NBA Cares program, he speaks to firefighters, law enforcement and emergency first-responders about PTS. Delaney also has visited troops at installations around the world, including Iraq and Afghanistan.
"We have a national debt to the men and women who serve us, to help you be reset so that Main Street USA is normal, not Main Street Kandahar or Main Street Baghdad," he said. "At times, you may feel that's more normal than being back here. … There are times when what you've experienced will pull you back to wanting to be there.
"What I'm asking you to do is become a little bit selfish, and that's hard for you because you take care of everybody else. Just move it a little bit and start getting concerned about you. … Like exposure to the sun can show up as a cancer 30 years later, exposure to long periods of stress can cause medical problems. There's a physiological reaction that takes place."
Delaney retired from the NBA last June. In the mid-1970s, however, he lived for three years under the alias "Bobby Covert" while infiltrating the mafia during a New Jersey State Police operation called "Project Alpha."
His own personal issues surfaced in the investigation's fallout, which included guilt over betraying associates in the crime family, a "contract hit" put on his life and the need for around-the-clock protection, he told the Soldiers.
"Whether it's your personal or professional relationship, trust is an important value," he said. "I saw myself as abusing that. … I was caught between two lives. That undercover job chipped a piece of my personality away. I was good at repressing normal reactions to fear in what I was doing and what I was trained to do. Yet there were times when I got into a safe environment and it all came out."
Delaney said he hopes his story might be reflective of what's going on in the Army and help Soldiers realize they're not alone. PTS isn't unique to the military, he said.
"It's not about eradicating post-traumatic stress. It's about figuring out how to deal with it and manage it," he said. "Post-traumatic stress is not a mental illness. It doesn't mean your nuts; it doesn't mean your crazy. It's a human condition, and you just happen to be in a higher-risk group.
"All I'm trying to do is help bring light to this subject, because the answers aren't coming from the front of the room, the answers are coming from the seats. … We're becoming more aware of what it is. The more we understand something, the better shot we have at finding ways to resolve it. I believe in peer-to-peer therapy to keep PTS from becoming a disorder. I'm not a big believer in handing out pills as the first answer and putting people into a stupor or corner."
Delaney's lecture resonated with many officers.
"It's great the Army is putting a positive spin on treatment and building a program," said Capt. James Guglielmi of MCCC Team 1. "For a long time, there's been a stigma. They're trying to move past that and get people help.
"He's a dynamic speaker with an interesting story. The solid message there is, 'Don't bear it all yourself.' Reach out and get peer-to-peer counseling. It's a good message. As future company commanders, I hope we can spread that message and make it even broader."
Capt. Oren Kauffman said the talk gave him a fresh perspective of PTS.
"He mentioned the different aspects of PTS, that it's not a disorder but more of a human condition," he said. "He wasn't really downplaying it or making it an illness. I can respect that. … It's about taking care of Soldiers and identifying what makes people react to situations. There are things that agitate those stressors to come back out. It's a people business in the Army, so we really have to keep an eye on our people."