After deployment, Fort Benning soldiers get 'adrenaline rush' from whitewater course

chwilliams@ledger-enquirer.comJune 21, 2013 

The new Chattahoochee River whitewater course is providing an outlet for some Fort Benning soldiers recently back from deployment.

This week a couple of dozen soldiers from the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division at Kelley Hill were on the river to get a little shot of adrenalin.

They were part of the Warrior Adventure Quest, an Army-endorsed program administered by Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation. Activities are designed to recreate the adrenaline rush of combat in a safe, supervised, controlled environment, according to a Fort Benning website. It is for troops pre- and post-deployment, and the activities range from paintball games to ziplining to whitewater rafting.

"When you are deployed, you have a constant adrenaline rush," said Sgt. Michael

Salter. "You can't imitate that. But this is a good way to get that rush."

All the soldiers on the river Wednesday were recently redeployed from Kuwait.

With the water almost twice the normal high flow this week because of all of the rain, the soldiers were running the man-made Heaven's Gate rapid on the Georgia side instead of the full 2.5-mile course. Time after time, the soldiers, six to a raft, would plow through the rapid.

Some soldiers like Sgt. Chris Williams are not accomplished swimmers, but enjoyed the rush of swimming the Chattahoochee's swift waters in a life jacket. The fifth time Williams' raft went through Heaven's Gate rapid, he jumped into the rapid and was flushed downstream into calmer waters.

"You definitely get the adrenaline rush," Williams said. "I have never done that before. It was pretty exciting. It made my day."

For Salter, the excitement came in a different way.

"For me, I compare it to not having any idea what is coming, then you are in the water and you are dealing with it," he said. "For a second, you can't breath, then everything is good again."

Mitzi Harrelson is a Morale, Welfare and Recreation Activities employee who was coordinating this week's trip.

"As soon as they jump in the water, they are going to feel that adrenaline rush," Harrelson said. "That is exactly what we want them to feel."

The Warrior Adventure Quest trips are paid for by the Department of the Army and take place on weekdays during regular duty hours. The rafting trip is the fourth stage of a five-step process. After the trip soldiers discuss the "activity and the challenges they may be experiencing in their daily lives," according to the Army website.

Whitewater Express guide David Holt said he enjoyed guiding the soldiers through the high water.

"These are the right people for this kind of fun," Holt said.

Whitewater Express has 15 trips booked with the Warrior Adventure Quest program, owner Dan Gilbert said. Each trip has about 25 soldiers. In addition to the rafting, the soldiers will also get a chance to kayak and paddle board during lunch, Gilbert said.

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