Returning Warrior Workshop Helps Sailors, Families Address New Challenges

Story Number: NNS090603-02Release Date: 6/3/2009 8:38:00 AM
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By Lt. Adam S. Bashaw, Commander, Navy Reserve Force, Public Affairs

NEW ORLEANS (NNS) -- Demobilized Sailors and Marines from the southeast region, along with their spouses, attended the Returning Warrior Workshop (RWW) in New Orleans May 16-17.

RWW is held at different locations across the country throughout the year to welcome returning warriors and help them integrate back into civilian life.

"There are three goals of the RWW," said Capt. Martha Herb, deputy commander of Navy Region Southeast Reserve Component Command. "First, we want to thank the warriors for their service and sacrifice. Second, we want to recognize war changes people. Third, we want [the warriors and families] to recognize when you might need to ask for help."

More than 150 participants took part in the two-day event. The workshop featured expert speakers and roundtable discussions about the challenges of returning home from extended deployments. Several providers, including Military One Source and Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, were on hand to help connect the warriors and families to appropriate services to help the transition process.

"This is an outstanding program, and it's really needed by returning Sailors and Marines," said Capt. Steven Bird, interim deputy regional chaplain. "It gives them a chance to tell and hear stories and also connects them with the resources they need. There was a time when the returning warriors didn't have a program like this, and they didn't know where to turn for help. Now they will know about the resources available to them."

Vice Adm. Richard K. Gallagher, deputy commander of U.S. European Command in Stuttgart, Germany, also took part in the RWW to get a firsthand view of the program and to thank the warriors.

"For me, one of the highlights this weekend has been the opportunity to meet [the warriors], to hear your stories and experience your joy and some of your unseen pain," Gallagher said. "I understand that Reservists are required to make radical changes when answering the call to duty. But over the course of this workshop, I have come to fully appreciate what it's like to change your entire lifestyle in the blink of an eye, to put on your battle armor and leave for war with only a few weeks' notice."

Gallagher emphasized psychological readiness as being paramount in the Navy Reserve, being always ready, anytime, anywhere.

"First and foremost, we must transform our military culture," said Gallagher. "During this war, the services have all come to recognize the importance of changing their attitudes toward psychological health. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is adamant about making this shift by institutionalizing a new culture where psychological readiness is an essential component in achieving mission effectiveness."

RWW organizers see the program as a key to helping ensure warriors are fit mentally as well as physically and professionally.

"The responses you are experiencing are normal reactions to an abnormal life event," said Herb. "The RWW also honors the families who had to stand the watch at home while you were gone. Many of you found new levels of courage you never knew you had."

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