October as an Eagle Leader Fellow

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Blog written by: Thea Ward

Flying home from National Trail Running Camp I experienced the worst turbulence of any flight I have ever been on. I was overwhelmed with fear and sadness and looking for one of my fellow Eagles to provide me with that sense of safety I feel when I am around them. It wasn’t until I noticed that my Eagles were no longer seated next to me, that I realized I was no longer on the plane. In fact, I had just said my goodbyes to them in the Denver airport. I stood outside the gate in a whirlwind of turbulence, a knot in my stomach, this dread of going home and I couldn’t stop crying. It was that moment that I knew that something was wrong. I have a career that I love, an amazing husband and supportive family to go home to, yet I stood outside Gate B56 tears flowing. I pulled it together, grabbed a bite to eat and headed to my next gate. On my flight home I started writing, a long answer to a simple question. “What is wrong?” In writing, I had my Ah-Ha moment that so often comes from Team RWB Leadership and Athletic Camps. Sometimes they come during camp, sometimes they hit you like a truck a while later, but either way you usually have one.

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Monica, a mentor in Group A at camp had the courage to get up and tell her story. For those of you not familiar with Team RWB, telling your story, your why, is a huge part of building connections and relationships. She was on stage talking to about a hundred of us, but it felt like she was speaking directly to me. “There is nothing wrong with taking medication for depression. Nothing. Sometimes, no matter what else we do, no matter how hard we try, medication is needed.” See, I had been fighting with myself up to this point. I knew something wasn’t right, but I blamed my Hashimoto’s. I blamed stress and lack of sleep. In reality, I knew what the diagnosis would be and although I wasn’t ashamed to be considered clinically depressed, something about not being able to “fix” myself bothered me. My Ah-Ha moment, from one of the many camps I have had the honor of attending as an Eagle Leader Fellow, just saved me from myself. I made the appointment, was diagnosed, and prescribed a medication. Weeks later I feel not quite, but much more like myself.

I got involved with Team RWB in October 2014 so that I could help our Veterans, not knowing how much the organization would come to mean to me. I become heavily active in May 2015 and was asked to step into the Chapter Captain role in October 2015. February 18, 2016 I got an email stating I had been selected as one of the first Eagle Leader Fellows, an email that would change the course of my life. Not in a huge, gigantic way that was noticeable at the time, but in subtle changes in myself over the course of the last 8 months. We have flexibility in how we spend our fellowship and while I very much appreciate the educational benefits I am receiving as part of the fellowship (I am studying for my National Strength and Conditioning Association’s Tactical Strength and Conditioning Facilitator Certification and attending a Leadership Through People workshop in which I will obtain a certificate of completion) I have taken full advantage of what the fellowship offers in how I can connect with others. My adventures have taken me to Tampa, Seattle, Boise, and across the state of Texas. I have learned to ruck, trail run, and watched a blind veteran surf across the waves of Huntington Beach. For me to explain my fellowship in its entirety, would require much more than a blog post. I will gladly talk about it for hours so if you want to know more, please reach out. It is with this in mind I will focus on the most current month of my fellowship, October.

The best part about being asked my “why” is that it is always changing. While the generalities of it stay the same, I find a new and much simpler answer to the question.

Why #1. Being surrounded by this group (“this group” refers to any group of Eagles I am around at the time) provides a sense of safety that I don’t find anywhere else. And not in a content way. Safety but in a brave way. I now feel safe getting up in front of a group of people and talking about leadership. I now, can speak in front of a number of people without a second thought. I take initiative in doing so even when my eagles are not around, because of the safety they allowed me to feel in doing so. You see, my fellowship had me give the presentation on Genuine Leadership at the NW Regional GoRuck Camp, and I was scared. But I didn’t want to waste an opportunity to share what I have learned from my leaders and other fellows. I got to be apart of the Old Glory Relay in the support van and had no problem getting in front of the groups of runners and briefing them for the day. Something I would have normally slinked to the back of the group for.

Why #2. Only this group of people inspires and empowers me to do things completely out of my comfort zone. They make me believe I can do anything that I put my mind too. I am terrified of water. Terrified. At GoRuck camp we had to walk into a river and put our faces in the water for 2 seconds. Without hesitating Kris (another Fellow) grabbed my hand and said “I got you.” We had to put our faces in again a second time for 3 seconds and I came up crying. I believe it to be a combination of the initial fear of the water, the adrenaline of doing something so scary, and the compassion showed by my friend. This is the only group of people who will get me to run up (I hate running) a huge hill to practice downhill running, only to get to the bottom and go up further the second time. To the top in fact. They stand by and wait for me to get to a cable bridge going over water and offer to come across with you. (I should apologize to another Fellow Mike, for my response. My fear of the water had me yell something back like “That’ll only make it move more!”) Once I got across the bridge, I got to the platform where Doise was waiting for me. Doise has attended Trail Camp 5 years now and never gone through the obstacle course. She went through it in its entirety just to be by my side going down the waterslides which dropped into the river. I can 100% say that no other group of people would provide me the courage to go down those slides. Once I got out of that water, I knew there’s nothing I can’t do. They provide support in such a way that I just signed up for my first ever race, a 50k in the North Dakota Badlands.

Why #3. I am a better wife, a better soldier, a better business owner, a better leader, a better listener because of this organization and the opportunities that have been provided to me through my Fellowship. The connections that I have made will be with me forever. I know my value as a community member now. My first ever camp JJ Pinter said that, “Inaction is not an option” and I have tried to live by that ever since. I just never knew that my action would have me signing up for 50ks, allowing me to travel the country, and been seen as a leader in my community.  The connections and genuine relationships I have built have simply put made me a better person in a way no other leadership training could have done. The fellowship has been nothing short of amazing and I will do everything I can to continue to grow these relationships for a long, long time.

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