FORT DRUM, New York - Wounded warriors from Fort Drum's 3rd Battalion, 85th Mountain Infantry Warrior Transition Battalion (WTB) spent the day indoor rock climbing as part of a recreation therapy outing in Liverpool, New York Dec. 12.
The day-long trip, coordinated by WTB's adaptive reconditioning recreation therapy team, was designed to provide wounded warriors the opportunity to conduct a physical activity while socializing with other wounded warriors outside of the everyday work environment.
"It was a day of participating in an activity that was both strength and emotional endurance building in an environment where the focus was climbing to the top and working alongside peers to reach that goal," said Sgt. 1st Class Nicole Lyon, a senior materials specialist from U.S. Army Reserve European Command and a native of Lynn, Massachusetts. "It gets my mind off of the daily tasks and it gets me into a different environment where I can be myself and focus on activities, challenges and facing fears that I didn't know I have."
The WTB is a specialized unit which provides personalized support to wounded, ill and injured Soldiers who require at least six months of rehabilitative care and complex medical management. Some Soldiers may become well enough to return to their units, while others may require a medical discharge or retirement following their treatment.
According to the participants, the WTB's leaders routinely recommend Soldiers take advantage of events such as the rock climbing trip to help wounded warriors take a break from their everyday transitioning activities. This is especially helpful in the case of Army Reserve or National Guard Soldiers who may not be close to home during their transition and are potentially spending a little more time in uniform than expected.
"If I were home, I would be doing stuff with my family," said Pfc. Raymond Piper, an Army Reserve combat medic from the 310th Military Police Battalion and a native of Bronx, New York. Being at the WTB "you still have to handle everything at home and you still have to be a citizen Soldier. It can be hard, but I don't feel it's a negative. It makes you stronger. It's something else to learn and put in your rucksack."
In addition to helping with physical and emotional healing, events such as the rock climbing trip also help Soldiers develop mental strength when dealing with a potentially tough situation.
"I think it helps them build resiliency, especially for those with injuries and they're not sure what they can do versus what they used to be able to do," said Annalise Doyle, a recreation therapist with WTB. "This is an opportunity for them to realize they can get back out there and do all sorts of things, they just may need to change up the way they do it."
"Being in the military, you feel like you're Superman and when you get an injury, it can drop down your self-esteem," Piper added. "When you do events like this, it helps to build your self-esteem back up."
Taking advantage of recreation therapy trips also provides Soldiers the opportunity to develop new relationships with other wounded warriors experiencing similar situations which also aids in the recovery process, according to Piper.
"It's easier to relate to people and talk to people," he said. "It's an easier situation for both parties. You get to become more familiar with them on a personal level."
"It was helpful; having someone there to help me through the obstacle, encourage me, back me up, be there and spot me," added Lyon. "It's nice to have a battle buddy there, knowing that I can depend on them and they can depend on me."