By Capt. John Wolf, Tripler Army Medical CenterAugust 6, 2014
SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii (Aug. 6, 2014) -- For Soldiers in the U.S. Army, Hawaii can be a very unique place to be stationed.
Hawaii's tropical climate allows its residents to experience warm weather all year round.
The Soldiers of the Warrior Transition Battalion, or WTB, at Schofield Barracks, took advantage of the opportunity by engaging outrigger canoe paddling, a sport that WTB Soldiers say is a favorite in Hawaii.
Starting at 6 a.m., Soldiers from the WTB started to arrive at Ke`ehi Lagoon on O'Ahu, to learn the basics of canoe paddling, as part of their Adaptive Reconditioning Program.
By 6:30 a.m., volunteer coaches from the Ka Mamalahoe Canoe Club separated the Soldiers into six-person teams, and began going over the mechanics of an efficient paddling stroke. By 7 a.m., three outrigger canoes with 15 Soldiers were in the water to start the workout.
The sport of outrigger canoe paddling consists of a six person team in a canoe supported by an outrigger, which provides stability to the canoe. Outrigger paddling is only one of the Adaptive Reconditioning Program activities WTB Soldiers engage in daily.
"The paddling program allows Soldiers-in-transition to do something that is totally holistic, and out of the normal Army physical fitness environment, by being in the water. Soldiers learn team work and engage in physical activity to help them rehabilitate from their injuries. We teach the correct paddling technique to make sure they don't exacerbate their injuries. It's really important that they learn to paddle the right way," said Staff Sgt Kris Ka`opuiki, who is in charge of the paddling program.
Staff Sgt Charlie Tava`e, an experienced paddler, also believes that the paddling program builds strong teamwork, and wishes he had the same program at his home WTB at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington.
Volunteers from the canoe club provided instruction and equipment completely free of charge to the Soldiers.
Scotty Thompson, founder of Ka Mamalahoe Canoe Club, believes that paddling not only provides a great workout, but also builds a strong `ohana, or family. "Many of the Soldiers have become part of our 'ohana. Our mission is to be part of the community, perpetuate Hawaiian culture, and emphasize the whole 'family' part of the program. The Soldiers give us the opportunity to work with them and we are very grateful for that."
"Many of the Soldiers who are dealing with [post-traumatic stress disorder], have found peace on the open water, and feel that it is much easier to cope with the rest of their day," Thompson added.
Kaopuiki estimated that around 75 Soldiers have participated in the program since its inception. He said a number of the veterans have also continued to participate with the club, following their transition out of the Army.
By the end of the session, the Soldiers left the water with smiles and sore muscles.
The Soldiers are currently training for the annual Duke's Oceanfest Wounded Warrior Canoe Regatta, scheduled for Aug. 16, in which six teams will compete against other Wounded Warriors, Gold Star Family members, and active duty service members from the other branches of service on the island.