News: Warriors honored high above sea level
Story by Larry Foos
DENVER - Within the comforts of a world class hotel and views of the Colorado Rocky Mountains canvassing the horizon, 135 post-deployed Navy sailors and their family members converged May 4-6 on the Mile-High City to participate in Navy Region Southwest Reserve Component Command’s Returning Warrior Workshop.
A thousand miles from the nearest port, half of the participants are Navy reservists who reside in Colorado and recently completed a deployment overseas as individual augmentees. The RWW brought them together in a relaxing atmosphere to help accelerate their reintegration into normal life by listening, sharing and honoring one another.
“I’m starting to feel welcomed back home,” said Master-at-Arms 3rd Class Kyle Curran of Colorado Springs, Colo. “I learned how people deal with the same emotions and stresses. I can sort of relate to them and how I can adapt and overcome like they have.”
Curran served in Al Fujairah, United Arab Emirates, nearly all of 2011 and is now a drilling reservist at Navy Operational Support Center Fort Carson, one of two Navy operational support centers in Colorado.
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 of 2006. Besides Colorado, the Denver RWW included reservists and active duty members from eight other states, and as far away as Guam and Japan.
Personnel Specialist 2nd Class Charles Skinner is full time support staff for Navy Operational Support Center Lemoore, Calif., and returned from individual augmentee duty in Guantanamo Bay in February. He and his wife, Ashley, were impressed with the Denver RWW.
“I love it. Just the location and the atmosphere … to me it’s like an ‘aah’ I can breathe moment. All this animosity or emotions you might have - this is the place you can get it out … It is by far the best Navy program I’ve ever seen. I have been in the Navy six years and I’ve seen a lot of our reservists mobilized out of our NOSC, and I will highly recommend them to come to this,” Skinner said.
Two elements that make the two-day workshop so effective are the science that goes into the order of events, and how participants are seated within the ballroom. Each returning warrior and spouse, family member or significant other, who is affectionately called the “homefront warrior,” sit at a round table with up to three other couples and one facilitator per table. After opening remarks and introductions, the workshop kicks off with a keynote speaker explaining the “code of the warrior.” It is a message intended to establish meaning and acceptance to arduous deployments and their effects. Retired Navy Capt. Robert Schoultz, who served as a naval special warfare officer for 30 years, explained the “code of the warrior” to the Denver audience.
“The warrior’s journey is risky and you’ve all been there. Today you’ll be focusing on the reintegration phase. It is an important part of the journey. For some of you it may not be very hard. But for others it’s a struggle. And you’re not alone,” Schoultz said.
As the day progressed, facilitators used team-building exercises to build unity among couples at their tables. This enables them to feel comfortable to share and learn from each other’s experiences and similarities. Later in the day, multiple breakout sessions were available that provided the attendees with specific areas of support or communication tools by subject matter experts. Topics included “Are You Angry,” “Couples Reconnecting,” “Getting Specific with Families Issues,” “Home and Car Buying Tips,” and “Female and Single Warriors.”
Retired Navy Capt. Jane Bingham, who is a “charter” member of the first RWW, said one of the most rewarding aspects of the workshop for her is the large-group session called “Improving the Process” because that feedback goes up the chain.
“Leadership values the feedback [from participants] and makes adjustments to the Navy’s deployment process as a result,” she said. During "Improving the Process," one representative from each table shares the one thing they would like to see changed during the deployment period.
One of the highlights of RWW is the Saturday evening banquet of honor. It is a formal dinner affair with special ceremonies, a guest speaker and a presentation for each warrior. Capt. Marcus J. Cromartie, commander, NRSW RCC, read the inscriptions of two different certificates of appreciation - one for the returning warrior and one for the homefront warrior. The table facilitators made the actual presentations.
Rear Adm. Patrick E. McGrath, deputy commander, 3rd Fleet, spoke to Denver’s RWW banquet attendees with a message that summed up the weekend event.
“At this Returning Warrior Weekend, for the first time in the history of the U.S. military, we’re recognizing the sacrifices of our sailors and their families. We’re showing our appreciation for what they went through now - not 50 years later. We’re saying the two words that for some reason make all of those who are called to duty very uncomfortable. The two words: thank you,” McGrath 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 their region at: www.ia.navy.mil. For more information, visit www.navy.mil, www.facebook.com/usnavy, or www.twitter.com/usnavy.
For more news from Navy Public Affairs Support Element West, visit www.navy.mil/local/nrnpasew/.