News: Returning sailors, Marines and their family members participate in southwest region’s newest Returning Warrior Workshop
Story by Larry Foos
PALM SPRINGS, Calif. – Seventy post-deployment sailors and Marines joined their loved ones to face a different kind of warfare as participants of Navy Region Southwest Reserve Readiness Command’s Returning Warrior Workshop in Palm Springs, Calif., Jan. 26-27. Instead of gathering to put on battle gear for mobilization, they set out to overcome the battles they face back home - the struggles that come from the dramatic transition from combat life to home life.
Made-up of individual augmentees who recently completed a deployment, RWW participants throughout California and surrounding states came to a relaxing venue designed to accelerate their reintegration into normal life by listening, sharing and honoring one another. Most of the service members brought guests, most often a family member – who were affectionately called “home front” warriors.
"This is a good opportunity to reconnect with your spouse or significant other,” said Chief Machinery Repairman Enrique Topete of Salt Lake City, Utah, one of 51 Navy reservists who attended the workshop. “It helps you pick up from where you left before your deployment.”
Topete mobilized to Kuwait Naval Base for one year, returning last May. He attended RWW with his wife, Adriana, who added her perspective of the weekend conference.
“As a spouse, I’m hearing the experiences of other spouses and what they’ve gone through. This way you know you’re not the only one having some of the same issues and problems. It’s actually been very helpful for us,” she said.
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 has its roots in the Southwest Region, with the first RWW introduced in Phoenix in September 2006.
RWW keynote speaker retired Navy Rear Adm. Mike Shatynski started the workshop with the “Code of the Warrior,” placing value and perspective on service members’ mobilizations to places like Afghanistan and the Middle East.
“I absolutely believe that Americans throughout history have not just fought to keep their family, friends and country safe, but even bigger than that, to bring a better way of life to the people of the world, just like we’re doing in Afghanistan now,” Shatynski said.
“Our code of the warrior as an American soldier allows us to do these incredible things, leave our family at home and then, for our family, for our friends, for country, for our world, and even for each other, deploy with honor, fight with honor, and return with honor.”
The RWW consisted of several large-group presentations, including "Telling Your Story," "Life Matters," "Improving the Process," "Operational Stress," "Military Families…Our New Heroes," "Dealing With 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 TriCare, Military One Source, veteran’s affairs benefits, and more.
The large-group sessions often included table discussions among six to eight people, led by a table facilitator. They fostered a climate of sharing and productive time together. This was most evident for the "Improving the Process" session, allowing one table spokesperson to share common pitfalls of the deployment experience. Capt. James Hughes, commander, NRSW RCC, provided immediate feedback on each issue and collected the feedback for review and improvement.
The RWW honored the post-deployed service members and their guests during a welcome home and appreciation banquet called the banquet of honor. The returning warriors were presented letters 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. Gordon Russell, commander, Information Dominance Corps Reserve Command, served as the surprise banquet guest speaker. He delivered an uplifting message that spoke of the high calling of each person’s service and what it means.
“Less than one percent of our citizens are protecting the liberties and freedoms that the other 99 percent often take for granted. That paradox is why we’re here this weekend. The families, friends, and neighbors of our returning warriors know that the heroes here tonight, are the husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, fathers, and mothers of our returning warriors….You are what makes America great,” Russell said.
Participants at the Palm Spring RWW included 51 Navy reservists, 17 active duty sailors, two Marine reservists and 59 guests. It is the first of several Southwest Region RWWs planned for the year.
To enroll in an RWW, contact your regional coordinator or visit www.ia.navy.mil.
For more news from Navy Reserve Navy Public Affairs Support Element West, visit www.navy.mil/local/nrnpasew/.
This work, Returning sailors, Marines and their family members participate in southwest region’s newest Returning Warrior Workshop, by CPO Larry Foos, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.