University training program to help wounded warriors

Training will prepare military recreation managers to assist service members returning to active duty

University Park, Pa. — More than 65,000 military personnel have been wounded by hostile and nonhostile acts in Afghanistan and Iraq since 2001. In addition to advances in medical care, recreation programming is playing an important role in reintegrating these individuals into military, family and community life. To help these wounded warriors, Penn State has developed a first-of-its-kind training program for military recreation managers worldwide, a program the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) has agreed to fund through 2011. The first is planned for Jan. 11-15 at the University Park campus.

"The Inclusive Recreation for Wounded Warriors program provides the knowledge, tools and resources recreation managers need to integrate active-duty wounded warriors into their existing recreation programs," said Ruth Ann Jackson, executive director of the Penn State Hospitality Leadership Institute and co-principal investigator for the project.

Inclusive recreation refers to modifying activities and using adaptive equipment to enable individuals with physical, behavioral or emotional limitations to participate in recreation. For example, military personnel with amputations may require different prosthetic feet to rock climb, stabilization straps to lift weights and flotation aids to swim; while those with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) who experience adverse reactions to crowds and loud noises may need recreation activities structured in quieter settings enabling participation with family and friends, according to Tammy Buckley, Penn State co-principal investigator of the Inclusive Recreation program.

"Active participation in recreation promotes health and wellness, increases combat readiness and reduces incidents of suicide and destructive behaviors associated with PTSD," added Buckley.

Carol Potter, recreation program manager, DoD Morale, Welfare and Recreation Policy, said, "Appropriate inclusive recreation programming has long been recognized as beneficial in helping the injured, the spouse and the children adjust to and thrive in their new situation. The Department of Defense is extremely pleased to be working with Penn State to provide this training."

Joshua Watson, a Penn State senior in recreation, park and tourism management, understands the value of recreation for military personnel. Previously an Army military police officer in Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries, Watson said, "Coming to Penn State and being involved in inclusive activities on campus has helped me readjust to civilian life." He will talk about his experiences during the first Inclusive Recreation program.

"For wounded warriors, quality of life issues go beyond caring for their medical, psychological and vocational needs," said Wesley Donahue, director of Penn State Management Development. "It can mean learning to play golf again or participating in new recreational activities."

The Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Management is collaborating with the School of Hospitality Managementand Management Development Programs and Services for the education and training programs at the Morale, Welfare and Recreation Academy. These outreach activities are part of Penn State Outreach, the largest unified outreach organization in American higher education, which serves more than 5 million people each year, delivering more than 2,000 programs to people in all 67 Pennsylvania counties, all 50 states and 80 countries worldwide.

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Last Updated May 06, 2010