In Bootcamp, our warriors are trained for war: to follow orders, make snap decisions in lethal environments, protect their lives and the lives of their comrades, kill efficiently. This training promotes, and combat cements, a mental and physical survival mode that is deeply ingrained.
And combat is not the only experience that can result in service-related trauma. Military Sexual Trauma is getting urgently-needed attention, but is still widely believed to be under-reported and inadequately handled when reported. For some, life was traumatic before they entered the service. Family and societal disfunction have propelled many a young person into the military for a chance to excel and broaden horizons. After serving our country, these warriors deserve more than to be abandoned to their own sometimes inadequate resources. They need tools for coping with the often-lonely issues of re-entry.
We believe part of the solution is mandatory exit training: Bootcamp Out. Ideally, this training would be as well-supported, researched-based and effective as Bootcamp In already is. It would support the returning warrior in learning to manage the complex demands of life where people are not united in a well-defined mission. Perhaps most essentially, this training would address the special wounds to the psyche that war can inflict.
At San Quentin State Prison, VHV-FTIO has been testing one such program, created here by veterans for veterans. The program brings together elements of narration therapy, peer support, body mind integration and expressive art therapies to allow warriors to reconnect with themselves and others in ways that promote trust, connection and healing. In addition to serving incarcerated veterans and those at risk of involvement with the criminal justice system, we believe that a program like VHV-FTIO should be required as a re-entry training at the end of military service to support the social and emotional health of our veterans and communities, and to save lives.
Watch program Founder Ron Self's talk at TEDx San Quentin on Bootcamp in, Bootcamp Out. Join the conversation by leaving comments below.