Feature Article - April 2011
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Marching Ahead

The Connection Between Recreation & Quality of Life

By Rick Dandes

"During deployments," said Laura L. Koene, deputy director, Semper Fit Division, Marine Corps Community Services, in Camp Lejeune, N.C., "military members get accustomed to being in a state of alert, which provides something like a constant adrenaline rush. They often have a difficult time adjusting to more mundane living conditions when they return home. Our recreation programmers offer more high-adventure activities to provide the rush the military member feels he or she is missing."

At Camp Lejeune, the Marine Corps has developed a Life Enhancing Activity Program (LEAP) and Back on Track program, which help military members who suffer with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or traumatic brain injury (TBI). These programs are run through the Naval Hospital and include sessions in yoga and iRest along with recreational opportunities such as swimming, kayaking and rock climbing.

The Army also has developed a relatively new, 2-year old recreation program called Warrior Adventure Quest, which deals with the same coming-home issues faced by marines, and is producing amazing results, officers say.

"Warrior Adventure Quest is a huge program for us, and we're really excited about it," said William Bradner, a deputy public affairs officer with the Army's Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Command.

Bradner agreed with Koene that after being deployed in a high-adrenaline environment for a year or more, soldiers are coming back home all hyped up and needing that adrenaline fix, and this can sometimes lead to disastrous results.

"Younger soldiers are buying the sports motorcycles or ATVs and are running them into trees at 120 miles per hour," Bradner said. "There is this destructive behavior generated because they are looking for that same adrenaline that they lived under for a year or more. So Warrior Adventure Quest combines high-adrenaline sports like sky diving, bungee jumping, water rafting in a group environment with after-action briefings that provide soldiers with a safe outlet for getting that fix, and encourages them to continue with that kind of active life style in a safe environment."

The after-action briefing is done at the platoon level as a group, teaches them to continue to watch each other's backs, as well.

The program results are extraordinarily positive, Bradner reported. "The last survey that we did, with over 10,000 soldiers that participated in this program, showed soldiers had 50.4 percent fewer accidents resulting in fatality injuries, compared to a similar sized group of soldiers who had not participated in Warrior Adventure Quest. Those are incredible results with soldiers coming back from war."

Unit commanders love it too, he said, because it helps redirect those high-adrenaline energies into a safe outlet.