FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Bob Delaney, NBA referee and former undercover police officer, spoke to Soldiers, Families and civilians on post-traumatic stress at the post theater during his visit to Fort Rucker Oct. 23-24.
Delaney spoke about his experience as an undercover police officer and how post-traumatic stress that he suffered affected his personal and professional lives.
"Those of us who wear uniforms like to think of [ourselves] as being able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, whether it be the uniform I used to wear or the uniform that you wear," he said to Soldiers. "While we know that heroic things are done on a daily basis by those who wear uniforms, we can never lose site of the fact that there are human beings inside these uniforms."
Delaney joined the New Jersey State Police in 1973, and said that later in his career he was offered the opportunity to go undercover and work with the FBI to find out how organized crime infiltrates legitimate businesses, as well as learn about the mafia subculture.
He said that his experience in the undercover operation caused him to develop real relationships with many of the members of the crime Families and become friends with many of the criminals he would soon be arresting.
"What you ask undercover people to do is become friends with people and then tell on them," he said. "I broke that value of trust that we all have in our personal and professional relationships."
Delaney said that when the time came to arrest the members of the crime Families involved in the operation, the look that went between him and the people that he befriended throughout the sting wasn't that of anger, but of hurt and disappointment. That break in trust that was felt between him and the crime Families partly led to his post-traumatic stress, but he soon learned that in order to help his problem get better, he had to talk about it."
"I was on an emotional rollercoaster," he said. "But the more we talk about this subject, the more we become educated and aware about a subject -- we get better at it."
He also spoke about peer-to-peer conversations and how talking to people who have gone through the same experiences can help a person get through post-traumatic stress, and one thing that he admires about Soldiers is their honesty.
"I love your honesty. I love that what you see, you speak about," he said. "Let's take that honesty that you guys have and move it into post-traumatic stress and let's take that honesty that you guys have and talk about suicide.
"We're not going to eliminate [PTS], that's not the goal," he continued. "The goal is to minimize [the affect that it has on Soldiers and Families]."
As Delaney closed the session, he left the people in the audience with a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
"The true measure of a person is not where he or she stands at times of comfort and convenience, but rather where he or she stands at times of challenge and controversy," he quoted.
"Those words ring true in every aspect of our lives today," said Delaney. "We have a challenge before us and we need to figure out and think of ways that we can minimize this."
Although the event was mandatory for all U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence military personnel who were present for duty, many, like Master Sgt. Torlina Wofford, B Company, 1st Battalion, 13th Aviation Brigade, found the seminar to be enlightening.
"Not only did he hit the marks about PTS, but just listening to his life and his testimony was very inspiring, and I feel that he has touched so many lives," she said. "Before I came here today I thought, 'What in the world is this mandatory class that I have to attend?' But when he started talking, it was just amazing. I could have listened to him all day."
CW4 Carroll Wallace, B Co. 1st Battalion, 13th Avn. Regt., agreed.
"It touched me on a spiritual aspect," she said. "There were a lot of spiritual undertones that you can take away from it, and the main thing I took away was the fact that you have to peel away those layers in order to be healed."
Staff Sgt. Jordan Anthony, B Co. 1st Bn. 13th Avn. Regt., who also attended the session, said that the seminar was a great way to boost Soldiers' confidence who might be suffering with issues that they might not want to talk about.
"He was absolutely right about people not wanting to bring those things up because you don't want to stand out for that," he said. "But it's OK to talk about issues that you have either downrange or at home. As Soldiers, we live unique lives, but we're never too big to seek help."