Air Force Veteran Amber Adams has always loved animals. Growing up, her family raised beagles, and now she has two cats of her own. So, when she saw an opportunity through Wounded Warrior Project (WWP) to be involved with Warrior Canine Connection (WCC) and help train future service dogs, she signed up.
After being honorably discharged from the U.S. Air Force, Adams sought out WWP as a way to connect with other Veterans and to find resources to help with her mental and physical health. She’s participated in fishing, kayaking, beekeeping, and a myriad of other activities, but when it came to WCC’s program and working with its puppies and dogs, she was hooked.
“When I learned about the mission, I got really excited about volunteering there,” said Adams. “I like the companionship of the dogs; I bonded really quickly with WCC’s Dana and WCC’s Ember, and I like knowing that the training and enrichment of the puppies will benefit future Veterans.”
Adams started volunteering her time at WCC to help with the whelping and socialization of WCC puppies a few times a month. Then, she learned about its Mission Based Trauma Recovery (MBTR) program and participated in the 8-week program learning how to train future service dogs for fellow Warriors. The program teaches Veterans in their own recovery to train service dog for fellow Warriors. In doing so, they receive their own therapeutic benefit from skills development in communication, confidence building, accountability, emotional regulation, patience and more by promoting an act of service.
While completing the MBTR program, Adams also participated in a University of Maryland research study that was funded by National Institutes of Health (NIH), which spanned 2018 to 2022, with a pause for COVID. Veteran participants with PTSD, like Adams, wore heartrate monitors and had saliva swabs taken before and after their interaction with the dogs to measure changes in their heart rate variability, cortisol and physiological stress indicators. Researchers are studying the correlation between the presence of service dogs, quality of life, and level of reported PTSD symptoms. The study will end in January 2023 and the results will be available later in 2023.
“It’s great training for me with my anxiety and PTSD; it’s easier to connect with a dog than a human sometimes,” said Adams. “The mindfulness is great … I’ve become so aware of the tone of my voice, become more patient, and focusing on communicating effectively with the dogs.”
Adams’ father and two sisters both served in the Army and her mother was a teacher. She went to college to be a teacher as well, but after landing only long-term subbing positions, she decided the Air Force would be a great way to go — enabling her to learn a new language and serve her country at the same time.
She spent a year and a half learning the Pashto language spoken by the Taliban at the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language School after basic training. Adams served seven years in the Air Force as a cryptologic language analyst, providing force protection for members of the U.S. military in Afghanistan.
She now works for one of Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Urban Search & Rescue Task Force as a grants manager. When a natural disaster or terror event happens, she helps to manage the funding and finances for deployments to those areas.
Adams encourages any Veterans who are looking for new hobbies, things to do, and a connection to other like-minded people, to check out WWP.
“It’s not a one-size-fits-all approach, there’s a lot of different activities, and a variety of offerings — everyone can find something to do,” said Adams. “It will definitely open your world up to so many other opportunities!”
To learn more about WWP and its programs, click here.