Finding your team again with a paddle and canoe
By MaryTherese Griffin, Warrior Care and Transition

ARLINGTON, Va. - Leadership and teamwork are two vital roles in the life of an Army Soldier. What do Soldiers at Warrior Transition Battalions do to fulfill those roles that have become part of their identity? If they are assigned to the WTB at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, they learn pretty quickly that the water can be a key part of their adaptive reconditioning activities.

"Outrigger Canoe Paddling is a wonderfully therapeutic activity for our Soldiers because it requires teamwork, concentration, physical effort, and most importantly a chance to be out on the water away from the business of their life with medical appointments, family obligations, and the stresses that come with transitioning out of their previous military unit," said Kristi Smith, Transition Coordinator for the WTB who encourages Outrigger Canoe Paddling. "I have heard many Soldiers say they have a clearer mind while they paddle and that [paddling] is very meditative."

Wounded Warrior Paddling is offered by the Ka Mamalahoe Canoe Club." The Ka Mamalahoe Canoe Club provides adaptive paddling activities year round for approximately 100 Soldiers. The pristine views and tranquil atmosphere paired with the physical requirements and teamwork on the Hawaiian waters help these Soldiers come full circle with a life they are struggling to repair.

"When Soldiers leave their unit, they are leaving their team and it might feel like they are leaving leadership behind," Smith explained.
"Teamwork is vital for an outrigger canoe to function. Every paddler has a key role and they have to work together at the same time to pull the canoe gracefully and rapidly through the water."

Staff Sgt. Jason Davis came to the WTB earlier this year and is taking advantage of many adaptive reconditioning activities including paddling.

"The paddling can be calming for me. In the beginning I liked to sit in seat number five, in the back of the canoe because I liked to see everyone in front of me. I did not like not knowing what was happening behind my back," Davis said.

Smith says paddling has become vital to Davis' recovery. "As the season progressed, I have seen him step out of his comfort zone and sit towards the front of the canoe. Paddling has changed him not only physically, but mentally as well."

Paddling helped Davis build his confidence high enough to sign up to compete in this year's Duke's Ocean Fest Outrigger Canoe Regatta where he and his team placed 2nd in the Wounded Warrior and Families Division.