News: Army program helps Soldiers, units find ‘new normal’ after deployment
Story by Sgt. Shantelle Campbell
FORT RILEY, Kan. – Realizing the threats soldiers face upon returning home from deployment, the Army created and implemented a program called Warrior Adventure Quest.
The program, which was first introduced to soldiers in Vicenza, Italy, in September 2008, allows soldiers to safely participate in high-adrenaline, high-adventure outdoor recreational activities like rock-climbing, kayaking, paintball, adventure racing and mountain biking, among many others.
“The Department of the Army was seeing increases in self-destructive, risky behavior in soldiers that were redeploying from war zones,” said Travis Engle, the recreation specialist for Outdoor Recreation at Fort Riley. “In the hopes of decreasing the DUI’s, accidents, marital issues and suicides, the Warrior Adventure Quest program was developed.”
“In the two years since implementing the program, there have been marked improvements in soldiers’ abilities to reintegrate into garrison life,” he added.
Sgt. John Hilton, a lab technician with Company C, 701st Brigade Support Battalion, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, said that participating in Warrior Adventure Quest was a great experience and helped establish even more cohesion within his unit.
“When we came back from Iraq, everyone came back in increments and were going different directions,” said the Wagoner, Okla., native.
“Then, when we did these activities – the rock-climbing and the paintball – they kind of brought everybody back together,” Hilton added. “This program, I think it did just what it was supposed to do. Everyone had fun and it increased unit morale. It was just awesome.”
For Spc. Andrea Perry of Palm Coast, Fla., and a medic with Company C, 701st BSB, taking part in the WAQ activities made the integration into the unit a lot easier.
“I had just gotten to the company,” Perry said.
The program “was great for me by being so new,” she added, “to be able to interact with people outside of work and get to know soldiers that I hadn’t talked to yet. It really helped me feel more comfortable here in the company and after getting back from the event, just having a way to relate. When I got here, I felt kind of out of it because everybody had deployed together, and I was kind of the outsider but … doing programs like this helps me to kind of feel part of the company.”
The activities offered through the WAQ program are designed for platoon-sized elements. Each platoon must have at least two trainers who have attended the WAQ leader lead after-action debrief training. The training is conducted Mondays at 9 a.m. at Fort Riley’s Outdoor Recreation Center, 9011 Rifle Range Road. The training and activities must be scheduled in advance.
With this program, “soldiers see each other in different circumstances and situations that would normally not happen,” Engle said. “They still work and function as a unit but there is the realization that there is more to the individual than what is seen during work duties. There is growth within the group as well as growth within the individual.”