By Sgt. Jaime De LeonMay 20, 2010
FORT DRUM, N.Y - Soldiers know better than anyone how a shared experience can forge strong bonds. Combat, however, isn't the only experience that can harness emotion in that way. Officers and noncommissioned officers from 3rd Brigade Special Troops Battalion put themselves in a positive adrenaline-rush-inducing environment May 14 by participating in a team-building, whitewater rafting trip down the Black River.
"Talk about a perfect recipe for team-building!" said 1st Lt. Trent Kubasiak, fire support officer for 3rd BSTB, who planned the trip. "You have a shared experience and then time to talk about it."
Although the unit has already been tempered by two tours in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, many new Soldiers have been added to the mix, along with almost entirely new leadership.
"Following deployment in support of OEF IX, the 3rd Brigade Special Troops Battalion experienced a change of battalion, company and platoon leadership, as well as primary staff officers, threatening to diminish the cohesive bond of the unit," Kubasiak said.
To help reaffirm that bond, the group spent the day in six inflatable rafts, careening down the Black River, each with its own river-guide perched on the back.
"It was phenomenal," said Sgt. Oscar Ramos, the school's NCO for 3rd BSTB, who participated in the event.
Out of 60 Soldiers, fewer than half a dozen raised their hands when asked if they had been whitewater rafting before. The group's lack of experience didn't hinder the Soldiers' ability to enjoy the experience. Guides from a local rafting company spent a few moments before the trip teaching troops how to paddle and turn their inflated vehicles.
"I've never done anything like this before," said Ramos, splashed with river water and wearing a giant smile after the experience.
Once Soldiers learned the basic moves, the trip began. A single raft at a time not only negotiated the level 3 and 4 rapids, they also put the rafts in reverse and paddled against the current, "surfing" the rapids.
After teams maneuvered through the river's final rapid, the rafts were tethered together and towed behind a pontoon boat for a leisurely float down to the waiting buses.
"Hopefully, we'll get a chance to do something like this again soon," Kubasiak said. "I'd like to try bungee jumping from a hot air balloon," he added.