By Mr. Douglas Demaio (IMCOM)July 16, 2009
BAMBERG, Germany (July 16, 2009) -- Adrenaline can be addictive. After a 15-month combat tour where an adrenaline rush could become a normal part of a Soldier's everyday life, quailing the need of an adrenaline withdrawal back home can be a bit complicated.
Some redeploying Soldiers come back and drive their car much faster than they did before they deployed. Others buy a sports bike and try riding it like a professional motorist with limited riding experience.
Army leaders are wanting to channel this high-risk behavior into high-adventure activities, lowering the risk of losing a Soldier to reckless behavior.
Bungee jumping, rock climbing and kayaking are just a few of these activities that can fulfill some of that thrill-seeking behavior.
Through these types of activities, Warrior Adventure Quest seeks to "mitigate boredom and the high-risk behavior of redeploying Soldiers."
Warrior Adventure Quest focuses on engaging Soldiers during the reset phase of a deployment cycle, said Paul Calain, an Outdoor Recreation coordinator for Bamberg's Morale, Welfare and Recreation.
Warrior Adventure Quest is not mandatory for Soldiers as part of the redeployment process, but the program is encouraged by medical professionals and recreationists, Calain said.
The program combines outdoor recreation activities, leadership and psychological training, which is called Battlemind.
Commanders of the rear detachment usually schedule the Warrior Adventure Quest within 90 days of the unit's redeployment, at the point where the reflections of one's experience will begin to have an effect on Soldiers' behavior.
These feelings don't usually appear immediately after a redeployment, said Joshua Moore, a recreation programmer and instructor for Warrior Adventure Quest activities.
"The norm is after the block leave, past the honeymoon stage," Moore said.
Moore and Calain work with the rear detachment units on choosing, scheduling and organizing an activity.
Summer activities are rock climbing, kayaking, a ropes course and paintball. Winter activities are skiing and snowboarding.
The activities are designed to be exciting, bring some cohesion to the unit and open up lines of communication for Soldiers who may have been under months of stress during their deployment.
"We're not there to judge; we're there to provide the activity." Moore said.
Warrior Adventure Quest staff ensure the activities are done safely, yet some portions of the activities focus on an individual's personal development.
The leadership portion is provided in small groups. The intent is to have Soldiers bond on both horizontal and vertical levels, meaning the Soldiers learn to interact with one another through the respect for the rank structure and on a personal level.
"We want to take them out of their comfort zone," Moore said.
Getting troops out of their comfort zone can help when Soldiers go through the last portion of Warrior Adventure Quest, the Battlemind training.
The unit commander runs Battlemind training. Its objective is to assist in a successful transition back home. Battlemind encourages troops to have an after action review of their experience downrange, but focuses more on the human response to the event.
Last month, Bamberg had its first unit of about 30 Soldiers go through the new program.
"It allowed each Soldier the opportunity to openly discuss and share their experience and point of view," said Maj. Rebecca McElwain, 106th Finance Company commander. "It was an excellent event and well worth doing again. While downrange, each Soldier deals with their environment differently. Some naturally digest the stress, while others hit their peak more easily."
"This places an extraordinary amount of pressure on our Soldiers," McElwain said. "Accomplishing a high-(operational tempo) mission in a non-threatening environment is stressful, but in a deployed environment, it can be downright grueling."
Performing in a high-stress environment for an extended period can change many things for a Soldier; McElwain said. Their perspective, decision making ability, tolerance level can change and their mechanisms for dealing with the stress can transform.
"This means that each person will face individual obstacles when redeploying," she said. "For some, it may be seamless for others, especially those with family members, the transition may be much harder."
Similar to what a professional athlete may do to reach his or her peak performance, the new program focuses on getting combat vets mentally healthy, she said. When the Soldiers talk about their experiences, they are able to experience common ground as they redeploy with those who understand and have a sympathetic ear---their teammates, family members and counselors. It aids in the transition, encourages resiliency from the effects of deployment and ensures readiness.
Certain portions of the Battlemind training were provided by specialists in the Chaplain Corps, she said.