By Molly Hayden, Bavarian NewsMarch 2, 2010
HIRSCHBACH, Germany AcE+' Spc. Jeffrey Fruchtenickt shifted his weight in his chair and spoke up first. "I'll admit it, I was nervous," Fruchtenickt said. "But that's the point, right'"
"It's definitely a stress reliever and keeps you focused," added Sgt. Antwan Stratton. "I wasn't thinking of anything up there except getting to the ground safely."
This was the general consensus of 25 Soldiers from the 172nd Infantry Brigade after a recent daytrip with the Warrior Adventure Quest (WAQ). Numerous 172nd Soldiers have filtered through the WAQ program over the last two months as part of the Army's holistic approach to reset its Soldiers following a long deployment.
Through WAQ, Soldiers are exposed to healthy, high-adrenaline activities in a safe, controlled environment, reducing high-risk behavior often associated with redeployment. Additionally, the program offers Soldiers a little fun.
Piling on the bus for a 45-minute drive to the small town of Hirschbach, Germany, Soldiers wondered what they had gotten themselves into. Few were familiar with the sport in which they were about to partake.
For some, not knowing was part of the adventure.
"We'll do anything to get the adrenaline pumping," said Sgt. William Woods.
Upon arrival, participants hiked through two kilometers of knee-high snow to the bottom of a cliff where the real adventure began. Each Soldier, armed with safety gear galore, including a harness, safety tethers, gloves and a helmet began to traverse a series of cables in an exercise called klettersteig.
The klettersteig cable system dates back to the 19th century where it was used to move infantry Soldiers across mountains during times of war. Now it's being used to move Soldiers' minds away from war.
As Soldiers negotiated their way across 50-60 meter cables, 30 meters or more above ground, using a static belay system, they cheered each other on and used teamwork to successfully complete the course.
"Klettersteig is a unique sport," said Recreation Specialist Luis Robledo, Rose Barracks' Outdoor Recreation. "It presents an individual challenge, but at the same time we're all using the same cable, we are all completing the task together as a team. WAQ is about unit cohesion and positivity. We all work together out here."
WAQ was introduced to the Grafenwoehr community more than a year ago and has had continued success. The program aids with many issues associated with redeployment. During a long deployment, an adrenaline rush can become a normal part of a Soldier's everyday life. Upon returning home, Soldiers seek ways to quell this desire for heart-pumping, high-risk action.
Outdoor Recreation provides WAQ adventures five days a week, and although the elements change slightly day-to-day, the goal is always the same.
"It's about the rush," said Robledo. After completing the course, Soldiers participated in a leader-led after action debriefing (L-LAAD), which gives them a chance to talk about the event and their feelings associated with this new adrenaline rush.
"I didn't really think this program would work," said Sgt. 1st Class David Hoage. "But after experiencing what we all just went through, I have changed my mind."
"You can see that the Soldiers are going through an adjustment period and the issues they are experiencing exist," said Recreation Specialist Michael Misenheimer, Rose Barracks' Outdoor Recreation. He said many Soldiers know they experience odd behavior upon returning from deployment, but may not always know why.
"The program allows them to talk openly, to see others are experiencing the same things during this adjustment period," explained Misenheimer.
Soldiers spoke candidly about what they had just experienced during the debriefing, from fears they faced to emotions that arose during the exercise. The excitement of continuing high-adrenaline adventures and participating in the numerous programs Outdoor Recreation offers was also expressed.
"This breaks up the monotony that many of us got used to," said Spc. Shawn Ridley. "It's something fun to do and it builds confidence."
Focusing on the positive, Soldiers expressed gratitude for their battle buddies, on and off the course.
"No matter what situation we are in, it's good to know that you're not alone," said Ridley. "It's a great team-building exercise."
Spc. Michael Sullivan agreed.
"Even on top of that cliff we were all looking for the guy next to us, that feeling doesn't go away when we come home," said Sullivan. "Whether we are in Iraq or Grafenwoehr, we have each other's back."