By Ms Alison Kohler (Army Medicine)May 31, 2011
One disadvantage to being in a community-based warrior transition unit is the separation from other wounded, injured and ill service members who have commonalities and experiences from which to draw.
CBWTU-Utah has created a solution to bring its service members and supporters together to learn about resources available to them, to bond with one another, and to engage in adaptive recreation and activities designed to enhance their resilience and comprehensive Soldier fitness.
“CBWTU works great, because it gets me back home handling bills, seeing Family, being close to my wife. It raises morale quite a bit,” said Spc. Duane Currell, New Mexico National Guard Soldier.
One drawback to CBWTUs, Currell said, was living in Albuquerque, N.M., with his unit based at Camp Williams, Utah.
For one week, service members assigned to CBWTU-Utah are invited to travel with one guest to Park City, Utah, to participate in a muster with other Soldiers from their state.
May 17 to 20, about 25 Army Reserve and Army National Guard Soldiers mainly from New Mexico and Colorado attended a muster at the National Ability Center in Park City.
“Our partnership with CBWTU started last fall,” said Gail Loveland, executive director for the NAC.
Relying on help from 700 volunteers to operate the NAC, the center provides free adaptive recreation to Soldiers and their guests while the Army pays for their travel, meals and lodging.
“(We want to) teach Soldiers how to remain healthy and active,” Loveland said.
Throughout the week, the attendees participated in briefings, equine facilitated learning, yoga, physical fitness coaching, nutritional counseling and the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness-Performance and Resilience Enhancement Program.
“They come here and find other spouses and Family members going through the same thing they are. A lot of Soldiers aren’t asking the questions they should, but gosh darn it their significant other will,” Loveland said.
Since November 2010, the NAC has hosted approximately 150 Soldiers and approximately 40 of their guests at the musters.
Recreational activities require the Soldiers and guests to work together, allowing them to bond and reduce social isolation.
“(Equine facilitated learning) relaxes them and takes the pain away. I feel it is a great way for them to express themselves. Everyone has their own experience,” said Alejandra Lara, EFL facilitator.
CBWTU-Utah’s musters have attracted attention from local and national media and legislators.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, visited the NAC where Loveland highlighted the partnership between the CBWTU and the NAC. On May 18, Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, D-N.M., visited the muster with Chris Chaisson, a staffer and veteran.
“I’m hearing the great things happening here in Utah and with this facility. We wanted to come out and see the great program that exists to help our military,” Lujan said.
Lujan said he had a real appreciation of the New Mexican Soldiers who took time to meet with him and his staff one-on-one during the muster.
CBWTU-UT provides remote command and control, medical case management and administrative services for 200 Soldiers in 15 states.
“We are truly community based and we depend on our community partners,” said Maj. Troy Danderson, CBWTU-Utah commander.
Every Soldier who attends the muster has a different experience.
“For some, they just want to muck our stalls. They just want to feel useful,” Loveland said.
Another Soldier was on the low ropes course and said, “I’m sorry. I’m going to take a while; I have a (traumatic brain injury)” and it was the first time he had admitted out loud what he was dealing with, Loveland said.
Another Soldier talked on Community Voices radio about how his time spent at the NAC redirected his life and caused him to look into going to school for recreation therapy, Loveland said.
“We know what we’re doing is working here,” Loveland said.