By Carol E. Davis
GRAFENWOEHR, Germany — High atop the trees on the Morale, Welfare and Recreation High Ropes Park, representatives from the U.S. Army Garrison Grafenwöhr, Family MWR, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Europe District gathered to cut a ribbon and showcase part of the project for Outdoor Recreation Destination at Dickhaueter Lake Park, here.
During a July 25 ribbon-cutting ceremony, the district and some of its Grafenwöhr partners harnessed in and swung, ascended, traversed and balanced their way across several roped obstacles as the first to test their agility on the new high ropes course.
Lt. Col. Michelle Garcia, the district's deputy commander, was among the participants negotiating the course and celebrating the opening.
"We design together. We go through the growing pains and the building pains, together. It's a true sense of accomplishment if we can do the celebrations together," Garcia said.
She said she was very impressed with the partnership between the Bauamt or German construction agency, Department of Public Works, and the district's Grafenwöhr office.
"It was a model partnership," Garcia said. "Anytime I can attend a meeting, make a visit or participate in a ribbon cutting to reinforce the success of a partnership, I will go."
Danielle Brooks, a district project engineer, said working with the customer and the contractor, and delivering this portion of the project early was very important.
"The contract was not originally phased for a partial turnover," Brooks said. "When the customer came to us and explained the need to try to open this portion of the recreation center early, I was concerned, but I knew I had to do everything I could to make it happen for the Soldiers."
Wolfgang Schultes, USAG Grafenwöhr Outdoor Recreation director, said the high ropes course is a "significant element" of the soon to be opened Outdoor Recreation Destination, currently being built.
The high ropes course is a two-part course, east of the main camp site, with an 11-meter-high area designed for Soldiers' training only. The second area or public area contains three levels of ropes ranging from four to nine meters high.
Users will strap into protective harnesses and navigate a tight rope, maneuver over barrels, transcend a bucket, grip gymnastic rings, to finally descend on a zip line.
Col. James E. Saenz, USAG Grafenwöhr commander, said the objective of the Warrior Adventure Quest is to provide unit leaders with team-building activities.
"Warrior Adventure Quest is an adventure therapy program," Saenz said. "It assists with reconstituting unit cohesion, Soldier bonding, and unit esprit de corps."
He said the course will help Soldiers recognize the importance of an effective transition, introduce outdoor adventure activities as a positive alternative to high risk, destructive behavior, and assist Soldiers to learn coping skills in managing combat experiences.
As a Soldier who has been deployed and redeployed, Garcia understands the importance of the high ropes course to the reintegration of redeploying Soldiers.
"I think the Army is on track with the Warrior Adventure Quest and that concept," Garcia said. "I don't think you realize that you miss the adrenalin. You miss the excitement of getting ready for something, and the sense of accomplishment when you've done it."
She said, deployment is the year-long cycle of consistent adrenalin and when a Soldier returns that adrenalin is stopped all at once.
"It's great that it's there; it's great that it's accessible, and it fills a need that a lot of them might not realize thay have until they do the course," Garcia said.
According to Saenz, the Outdoor Recreation program has used high ropes activities for Warrior Adventure Quest since 2009.
"This facility was designed with focus on team-building elements that have proven to be very effective with WAQ throughout the Army," he said. "The result is a course that our Soldiers will find technically challenging and sure to boost adrenalin levels."
When complete in summer 2013, the Outdoor Recreation Destination will house a main center, team adventure course, camp sites with shower houses and recreational shelter, cabins, paintball court/field, picnic area, a boat dock and much more.
"This adventure facility is a critical activity for all military units within the USAG Grafenwöhr footprint," Schultes said.