Paintball Aids Reintegration Effort

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FORT BRAGG, N.C. -- It was scouts versus mortarmen on the paintball battlefield, and for one balmy afternoon on Fayetteville's rural eastside, mandatory fun took on a whole new meaning.

It was actually fun.

"It was awesome," said 1st Lt. Daniel Loeffler, scout platoon leader for the 82nd Airborne Division's 1st Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment. Part of the 1st Brigade Combat Team, the battalion was recommended for a Presidential Unit Citation for its work in Afghanistan's contentious Ghazni Province this past year.

"The guys really enjoyed it," he said.

"We've had pretty strong feedback," said Derek Weller, a recreation specialist with Fort Bragg Morale, Welfare and Recreation who administered the activity. MWR manages Warrior Adventure Quest, a Department of the Army-funded program that puts recently redeployed units into high-adventure activities to help support the reset process.

With the return of much of the 82nd Airborne Division this fall, the program has already served 1,500 paratroopers with the division's 1st and 4th Brigade Combat Teams, said Weller.

Warrior Adventure Quest has benefitted nearly 9,000 soldiers since its inception in 2010, he said. A study early in the program's development attributed substantial behavioral benefits to participation, including reduced disciplinary issues and fewer off-duty accidents, he added.

And it's just plain fun.

In addition to paintball, the team-building, platoon-level activities offered by WAQ include broomball and zip lining.

"All of our platoons but a few staff sections chose the paintball," said Chaplain Capt. Matt Madison, who did most of the legwork to cycle 1-504th PIR's platoons through WAQ.

Madison said the program was a natural fit for his battalion's paratroopers, many of whom experienced nearly daily combat in Afghanistan.

The paintball complemented a very intentional reintegration effort by the battalion that included recreational trips for surfing and rafting, combatives, marriage retreats, and company picnics, he said.

Many platoon leaders told the chaplain that, for many in their platoons, paintball offered one last chance to spend time together as a fighting unit before taking new jobs and moving to other posts, he said.

"It's a form of closure," Madison said.

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