By Drew HamiltonMarch 14, 2013
Family members from White Sands Missile Range spent the day overcoming physical and mental challenges and building leadership and teamwork skills at a reunion boot camp March 8.
Army Community Services hosted the reunion boot camp for Family members of the 2nd Engineer Battalions 573rd Clearance Company to help prepare the Families for their Soldiers return in the near future. "Reunion boot camp is a team building experience for the ladies so they can come together and think about some of the experiences their Soldiers may have experienced and felt while deployed to Afghanistan; and it's a little bit about getting together and figuring out who we have here to help us out," said Julia Armstrong, ACS program manager at WSMR.
The boot camp was a two day event. Day one was mostly classroom learning, where the Family members could learn about the challenges of reuniting after a long deployment and the resources available to help overcome the difficulties. Class topics included post traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, a demonstration of service dogs, operational security, and even a Zumba exercise class. "When I spoke with the Family Readiness Groups they thought it was really important (to hold this event) and classes they wanted to see," said Candace Gilbert, a deployment specialist with ACS and Family member of a 573rd clearance company Soldier.
For the second day of the boot camp the Family members were taken to Fort Bliss to go through a leader's reaction course, take a trip down the rappelling tower, and go through the air assault obstacle course. The physical and mental challenges of the courses helped the Family members become better as a team and learn to trust each other while having fun and learning about what their Soldiers may be going through while deployed. "I really wanted this event to bring everyone together and boost morale and get them real excited about their Soldiers coming home," Gilbert said.
Post deployment reunions are a happy time for most military Families, but they are not without their challenges. By necessity, Families and Soldiers gain a level of independence over the deployment that may not have been there when they were together before the deployment. "Coming back together can take some time, so we're looking at different resources we have to help us with that transition and help us learn to look for the signs and symptoms that we can see, changes that might have occurred, and different ways that we can become a better family unit," Armstrong said.
While the boot camp for the FRG of the 573rd ended with the Family members receiving their air assault wings, the success in educating the Families and bringing them together as a team will be repeated for other battalion FRGs as additional companies come home to White Sands Missile Range.