Warriors need a purpose, something to strive for, something that propels them above the rest. They need to feel strong with a sense of self accomplishment both on the battlefield and off. Without it a warrior can fall into depression and they will lack the strength to deal with their memories of war. The difficulties veterans confront reintegrating into civilian life after experiencing combat have been documented throughout the entire span of human history. The reintegration process can be long and difficult, which may exist because attitudes and emotional responses that are adaptive as survival strategies in war are often no longer useful in civilian life. In 2013, the Veteran Administration (VA) released a report that garnered widespread media attention by reporting that approximately 22 combat veterans died by suicide each day. In recent years the military has begun to see a rise in active duty suicides as well. In 2018, 326 active-duty troops died by suicide. That number increased to 348 in 2019 and 377 in 2020, according to Pentagon figures.
To combat this epidemic, Wilderness Experience Programs (WEPs) have been shown to enhance psychological well-being for numerous populations. Based on these studies AXWP has created our own WEP that is designed to educate and train veterans to overcome the challenges of the wilderness and to provide them with everything they need to complete a successful expedition. We plan to do this by focusing on providing 6 essential services to each veteran.
1 – Educational Training
AXWP will provide the veterans access to AcadianXU (AXU) which is an online training platform that covers in depth every aspect of backcountry travel. This will give the veterans all the information they need to keep themselves safe and comfortable while exploring the backcountry. Topics covered are Outdoor Clothing, Backpacking Gear, Backcountry Navigation, Wilderness Travel, and Backcountry Nutrition just to name a few.
2 – Physical Training
AXWP will provide a physical training program similar to their military PT that will be specifically designed to prepare their bodies for the upcoming challenge. This is meant to bring them back to their military roots and get them into a healthy routine. They will be required to give weekly updates as to their progress which AXWP will monitor to ensure success. Since the program will reflect military style PT sessions, the program will not need the use of a gym. Simply the outdoors and a few home gym essentials to complete the sessions.
3 – Gear & Essentials
AXW will provide all the top-of-the-line gear and essentials needed to complete expedition. This will include all the proper clothing, backpacking gear, kayaking in gear (if needed), food, water, and any other essentials deemed necessary. AXWP will work with industry leading gear and clothing manufactures to either provide in-kind donations or discounted rates based on existing relationships through AcadianX.
4 – Planning, Logistics, & Travel
AXWP will plan every aspect of the trip including routes, itinerary, and emergency action plans. Logistics will be covered as well, which includes any needed rental gear, any shuttles that may be needed, and all fees and permits associated with the trip. AXWP will also have a plan for rescue services if needed. All travel associated with the trip will be covered such as flights, rental vehicles, and fuel.
5 – Guided Wilderness Expeditions by AXW Team Leader
AXW will provide a team leader for the trip who will guide the vets on their journey. He will be responsible for their safety and will be capable of changing trip details at the last minute if a situation arises. He will be capable of navigating the terrain, making quick decisions, and an expert in all topics covered by the group. The team leader will also be a veteran in order to relate to the group. Currently, one of the founders of AcadianX and the AXWP Executive Director, Jeremiah Pastor (Bullfrog) leads most of the trips and is a veteran of Naval Special Warfare (Seal Teams).
6 – Mental & Behavioral Health Evaluation
AXWP will work with researchers and health officials to develop a program designed to evaluate the mental and behavior health of each combat veteran both before and after their expedition. The purpose of this is to measure the effectiveness of the program and to document the progress of the veteran.
This program is meant to help heal the scars of military service and improve veterans overall mental health through this wilderness experience and to give the veterans the knowledge and equipment needed so that they can carry on doing continued wilderness trips on their own.
If you are a veteran and you feel that this program is what you need then we encourage you to apply.