News: Southwest Region Reserve Component Command hosts Returning Warrior Workshop in Phoenix
Story by Larry Foos
PHOENIX – Fifty three post-deployed sailors, Marines, a soldier and three their guests participated in Navy Region Southwest Reserve Readiness Command’s (NRSW RCC) Returning Warrior Workshop in Phoenix, March 16-17.
The RWW participants arrived from all over Arizona, surrounding states and as far away as Hawaii to a relaxing, non-military oriented venue designed to accelerate their reintegration from an intense deployed life into life at home by listening, sharing and honoring one another. The workshop’s formula for success in large part is dependent upon participants bringing a guest - usually a family member or a close loved one. These are the military’s “home front” warriors.
Capt. James Hughes, commander, NRSW RCC, kicked off the workshop with a welcome home message. He told participants that their “service has mattered, and it has been important.”
RWW Speaker Capt. Scott McMahon, who has served in numerous overseas operations, set the tone at the beginning of the workshop with “Code of the Warrior” – a presentation that is intended to bring meaning and acceptance to the arduous deployments.
“Our code is a belief system that unites us. It’s an ethos to live by, and a shield for those things we had to deal with. It allows you to come home with honor,” said McMahon.
McMahon also directed his message to the service members’ guests, acknowledging the importance of their presence at the workshop.
“I think the home front warriors have the toughest job. It’s much more difficult to handle the home front while your counterpart is deployed. Their stories, their images and their experiences are just as much a reason to be here this weekend as the warriors themselves,” he said.
The Phoenix RWW is the site of the first Navy RWW held in 2006. Funded by the Department of Defense's Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program, RWW is widely regarded as one of the most effective and popular reintegration programs for demobilized service members. It only took a half day into the workshop for one sailor and her mother to be glad they came.
"Before, I didn’t want to come because I didn’t want to be asked a lot of questions,” said Logistics Specialist 2nd Class Nikkia Alfred of Surprise, Ariz., one of 40 Navy reservists who attended the workshop. “I’m glad to be here. The questions are more about how I feel and I can just be completely honest.”
Alfred was deployed at Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan, last year. Her mother, Kristy, drew the same conclusion.
“For me, I see healing and restoration happening not only for my daughter but for the other warriors that are here, as well. And for family members – it helps us too,” said Kristy. “It gives me better understanding because I am not in the military and I don’t know what went on. But just to hear the other individuals speak and how the family member was affected – all that helps me know I’m not in a world on my own,” she said.
The RWW consisted of several large-group presentations, entitled Telling your story, Life matters, Improving the process, Military families … our new heroes, Dealing with stress, Operational stress, and Transformational growth. Participants also had a choice of six breakout sessions each day. Several service providers were on hand with information booths, such as Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, financial and personal counseling assistance, MetLife, TriCare and more.
Leading the Life Matters session, Retired Rear Adm. James Symonds recognized the difficulty adjusting back to normal, or a “new normal” life post-deployment and offered practical advice.
“What this whole weekend is about is to move forward with your quality of life, and that of your families. Decide what is most important to you … what you want to accomplish in your life and how is it you liked to be remembered,” said Symonds.
The RWW honored the post-deployed service members and their guests during a welcome home and appreciation banquet called the Banquet of Honor. Each warrior was presented a letter of appreciation for their service and their spouses or other close family members were presented a letter of appreciation for their service on the home front.
Rear Adm. Scott E. Sanders, reserve deputy director, Joint Staff J7 Suffolk, Va., was keynote speaker at the banquet, offering his praises to the warriors and issuing his “orders” going forward.
“Take your stories, take your experiences and look out for other members of your ‘tribe.’ Look out for your shipmates, your Marines, your Airmen and your soldiers and see how they’re doing. Reach out to them,” said Sanders, stating that many other military members and families not in attendance need the same RWW experience.
Sanders added these remarks, which reflect the tone from all the speakers throughout the workshop: “Be proud. I’m very proud of each and every one of you. You should be proud of your reservists. You’re part of a citizen soldier heritage this nation was founded on,” he said.
If you are interested in enrolling in an RWW, contact your regional coordinator and reserve a seat at one of the next RWWs in your region at www.ia.navy.mil.
For more news from Navy Public Affairs Support Element West, visit www.navy.mil/local/nrnpasew/.
This work, Southwest Region Reserve Component Command hosts Returning Warrior Workshop in Phoenix, by CPO Larry Foos, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.