By Sara E. Martin, Army Flier Staff WriterSeptember 6, 2012
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (Sept. 6, 2012) -- Recovering from a deployment can be difficult for many Soldiers. That's why Installation Management Command developed a program of high-intensity activities to help bring Soldiers back to a stateside state of mind.
Warrior Adventure Quest, or WAQ, is important for Soldiers who have been deployed because it allows them to reclaim what is considered a normal mental state, said John Clancy, outdoor recreation program manager, adding that retention reset is the goal of the program.
"They get that rush every day over there and when they get back they seek that high again, often in very dangerous ways. When they are all pumped up and don't know how to get that out of their system it can lead to injuries and even death, often caused by POV (personally owned vehicle) accidents. So, to help prevent that, this program and others like it were developed," he said.
The funding from IMCOM enables Soldiers to participate in activities like paintball and parasailing without any cost to them.
"It is a chance for them to find a free, reachable norm without them going off post alone and being reckless or getting into trouble. WAQ activities provide a transition from overseas to being back in the states," said Brian Jackson, recreation delivery systems program manager for the Directorate of Family, Morale, Welfare and Recreation.
Fort Rucker is unique with IMCOM's requirement that Soldiers who participate must have been downrange in the past 120 days because it is a non-deploying base.
"IMCOM has given us permission to work with Soldiers outside the 120-day window. It takes a much longer time for us to contact Soldiers who maybe have been back a year and didn't know about our program here at Fort Rucker. It's out there for any leader, commander or sergeant major if they want to get some of their [Soldiers] involved. Just contact us," said Clancy.
Oftentimes Soldiers go into the program looking for "the catch," but Clancy is determined to prove that the program is strictly about improving Soldier's mental states.
"[Some Soldiers] don't really want to be there and they think we are going to force them to work out or drill, but that's not it at all. It's all about relaxing. Afterwards, they come away so happy that it's all they can talk about," he said.
A group of Soldiers from the Captains Career Course gathered Aug. 24, at Lake Tholocco, on Fort Rucker, for a friendly game of paintball to gain an understanding of the importance of the program.
"As future commanders it's important for us to recognize the programs that are out there to help our Soldiers when they come back. It's a great program and I really appreciate what DFMWR has done for us," said Capt. Thomas Simpson, Team 10's coordinator.
The Soldiers turned the game into a tactical exercise for a few rounds to simulate what they went through overseas.
"Paintball, and most of the other activities, teaches [Soldiers] how to work as a team and to cross talk. They've got to be able to communicate well and help each other out. And even here where you're under stress it teaches you how to handle it without yelling at your fellow teammate," said Maj. Robert Van Dine, an instructor at 1st Battalion, 145th Aviation Regiment.
"I freshened up my teamwork skills. It's been a long time since we've done anything like this small-group tactical stuff. It's a lot of fun and a great way to just get out of the classroom and get out here and work as a team," said Capt. Aaron Orange of the Captains Career Course.
One of the officers, Maj. Aahad Zarrar of the Captains Career Course, had never been paintballing before and was impressed with the way the day was conducted.
"Paintballing was amazing. I am a foreign officer. We don't have things like this back home. The program helps [Soldiers] take out excess stress and to fit back into society. When I go back I am going to stress to [my superiors] about having something like this. It can take on a lot of roles depending on what direction you take the activity. If you want to strengthen your teamwork and make a tactical exercise out of this you can, but it's also good exercise for excess energy and endurance. This takes out problems and anger a more realistic way. It was weightlifting to be able to shoot at people and be shot at without getting seriously hurt," said Zarrar.
Some of the programs that are currently set up for the program are paintball, white water rafting, ropes courses, golf, deep sea fishing, zip lining, wave runner and parasailing, and Clancy said that other activities that are cost efficient are in development.
"We are researching skydiving, ATV (all terrain vehicle) trails, mountain biking, bungee jumping, ropes courses, cave exploring and rock climbing. The plan is to get Soldiers involved in activities that are much safer, with instructors and other professionals, but can be fun and relaxing," he said.
Some of the programs that the Soldiers from Team 10 thought would be good to add to the course were scuba diving, because Soldiers would learn about staying calm under a stressful situation, backpacking and hiking because of the local terrain, and horseback riding because many Soldiers have never been on a horse before.
The importance and the ground gained from WAQ were discussed between the Soldiers during a break from paintball.
"I am glad that MWR has these types of programs and I hope they don't go away with the deployments starting to calm down. It builds esprit de corps and its great learning," said Van Dine.
"It helps build camaraderie and its great exposure for me because I didn't know what WAQ was prior to coming to Fort Rucker. It's awesome knowing what is available to me now. It's been a great time coming out here, because we didn't have to supply anything. We just brought our game faces," said Orange.
Not all of the activities revolve around seeking a rush of adrenaline, according to Clancy. He stated that WAQ is also about team building, relaxing and occasionally a little friendly competition.
"These Soldiers will get really pumped up over a golf or fish competition that they will get going between them. They will holler and jump up and down over sinking a putt because they might have never played golf before in their lives or caught a tuna that weighs more than they do. Who is to say what a good thing is for any individual?" he said.
Fort Rucker also provides WAQ for Soldiers at other bases.
"We do programs for the special forces from Eglin Air Force Base because they don't have an outdoor recreation program there. Those guys can be hardcore and tense, so to see them all laughing hard at the end of the day really makes me feel ecstatic about what this program does for Soldiers. I see a big difference in their demeanor afterwards," said Clancy.
The other focus of WAQ events is to get Soldiers participating in that event long after they have completed the program, and according to Clancy Soldiers from around the area are doing just that.
"We now have Soldiers who after participating in an event liking it so much that they will go back with their families. We really like to hear that because we want to stitch the families back together as well. We know how hard that can be with [a Soldier] being gone so long. That separation can really cause behavioral issues, and we want to heal that," he said.
For Soldiers who feel they are suffering from any side effects from a recent deployment, Clancy said they should contact him at DFMWR through email or by visiting his office in Bldg. 5700 or by going to the Facebook page to be placed on the list to participate.
"Slowing down isn't a bad thing. Take time with your family and come to one of the events. You have nothing to lose," he said.