NEWS | May 26, 2022

REDCOM Fort Worth Welcomes Returning Warriors at RWW New Orleans

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class (SW/AW/IW) Lawrence Davis, Navy Reserve Region Readiness and Mobilization Command Fort Worth

(May 24, 2022) – On a warm Friday evening in New Orleans, Louisiana, casually-dressed Navy Reserve Sailors received heartfelt greetings from event facilitators as they arrived at a luxury hotel located on the corner of the Bayou State’s famed Bourbon Street for Returning Warrior Workshop (RWW) New Orleans 2022.
 
A component of the Department of Defense’s Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program (YRRP), the RWW is designed to promote the well-being of Active and Reserve Component Sailors returning from deployments and individual augments, also known as mobilizations.
 
Twenty-four returning warriors, each accompanied by a guest, approached a blue-clothed table where Personnel Specialist 1st Class Craig Wingate sat neatly dressed in civilian attire typing behind a laptop. Wingate, a Training and Administration of the Reserve (TAR) Sailor assigned at Navy Reserve Region Readiness and Mobilization Command Fort Worth (REDCOM FW), welcomed them with a smile as he marked the members and their guests present.
 
Wingate confirmed he had copies of their orders on file, and after answering questions, guided them towards the hotel ballroom-area where a full dinner spread awaited.
 
“These folks made great sacrifices leaving their families and friends to go off and defend our nation,” said Wingate. “I volunteer to work at these events to express my appreciation for my shipmates and each of their contributions.”
 
For the next couple of days, the warriors and their guests partook in an all-expenses paid retreat as professional counselors, military family support experts, and various resource providers engaged them with therapeutic activities and presentations.   
 
“This is really an opportunity for our members to focus on certain important issues that are often put on the back burner,” said Roxy Carrillo, REDCOM FW’s YRRP specialist who coordinated the RWW event. “Topics such as mental health, spiritual toughness, and resiliency are at the core of this weekend. Equipping our Sailors and families with tools, resources and strategies to face the various challenges of reintegration increases the mission readiness and overall strength of our Navy Reserve Force.”
 
Each of the warriors, their guests, and facilitators sat at round tables in the hotel ballroom where they engaged in conversations, got to know each other, and shared their individual experiences.
 
“What makes this weekend so amazing for every one of these Sailors, their family members and loved ones is that we’ve invited all of them to come and tell their story, and we see those stories as sacred,” said Dr. David Anderson, a licensed counselor and professional speaker who served as the event’s master of ceremonies. “Whether it’s good stuff or not-so-good stuff, generally that’s what stories are made of, right? So, for them to have the opportunity to come and sit around those tables and share their stories with fellow Sailors, their battle buddies, those people who are right there in the trenches with them, that’s what makes this event so special.”
 
For Reserve Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Sheila Badgerow, who mobilized for 11 months to New York City in support of the Navy’s COVID-19 relief effort, the RWW had added significance as she reunited with her sister, Cynthia Porter, her father, and other family members for the first time in more than 20 years.
 
“We’d kept in contact with each other, but it was just the timing of life, our work, and other obligations that made it to where we could never get on the same page,” said Badgerow. “This was a very emotional reunion. My dad lives in the Philippines. So, I hope this won’t be the last time I’ll see them. I’m just cherishing the moment and taking things a day at a time.”      
 
Several guest speakers gave presentations to the members in attendance. The speakers included: former Navy Hospital Corpsman Dr. Catherine Warren, who revealed her struggles as a young, single mother in the military; Mrs. Katherine Alexandrou, who emphasized the importance of recognizing that “as the Sailor serves, so does the family”; retired Navy Capt. Mr. Christopher Staeheli, who discussed operational stress control; as well as Mr. Mario Campa, who spoke about strengthening families, and multiple others.
 
“There’s been a lot of really great information shared,” said Reserve Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Shawn Carrier, who was mobilized for a year to the naval shipyards in Portsmouth, Virginia during the pandemic. “Every deployment is going to affect service members and their families in some way, so, this program gave us the opportunity to interact with others who’ve had similar experiences. By sharing stories of what each of us has experienced and learning how to overcome obstacles, we gain a sense that it’s going to be okay. The Navy has resources available to help us and we’re all here for each other.”
 
Reserve Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Alyscia Watson-Key, who mobilized for 11 months to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, shared her excitement in having the opportunity to access all of the resources available as well as to spend time with her husband over the weekend in New Orleans.
 
“I’m definitely excited about going out in town and experiencing the culture of New Orleans,” said Watson-Key. “The event has been very interactive. Everybody has been very friendly and willing to help, and it’s really great to have that support system. When we leave here, we’re going to have phone numbers and email addresses, and the ability to reach out to people who can assist along the way. We’re all going through something and although it may be different, it’s the same in a lot of ways.”   
 
The three-day workshop concluded as the returning warriors and their guests in attendance were treated to breakfast and inspirational words from Reserve Navy Chaplain Lt. Cmdr. Elias Paulk, assigned as the supervisory chaplain for Commander, Naval Surface Forces Atlantic.
 
Paulk spoke about spiritual toughness and likened it to the process of forging a steel sword, explaining that it is the heat and hammer that shape and strengthen it.
 
“Toughness is the ability to take a hit and keep going, tapping all of the sources of strength and resilience,” said Paulk. “Spiritual toughness is the ability to adhere to beliefs, principles, and values needed to persevere and prevail.”
 
For more information about Returning Warrior Workshops and the Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program, visit the YRRP website at www.yellowribbon.mil.