Our Mission: To respond to the needs of to those who serve our nation and protect its values, by promoting personal and professional growth, and contributing to an effective, sustainable path towards reintegration.
BaseCamp for Veterans, Inc. (“BCI”), aims to build a supportive and engaging community for veterans and their families, starting with an annual week-long groundwork-focused equine assisted learning program. During the equine program veterans will work with mustangs - wild horses that have had little human contact. Additionally, veterans and their families will be given the opportunity to participate in BCI-tailored horsemanship clinics, and to ride fully trained horses through a mix of group lessons and trail rides.
The BCI team believes that time spent in the company of horses can open channels of thought that cultivate mental and physical confidence. While there is no doubt that ground-work with any horse challenges a person’s understanding of how to communicate with the world around them, the BCI team decided that the wild nature of mustangs, and the national interest in finding a viable use for as many of these creatures as possible, fit perfectly with BCI’s mission. Veterans who participated in BCI’s pilot program stated that the vulnerability they felt while working with these tenacious creatures was an integral part of the program’s success. Veteran participants, and their family members, drew parallels between a mustang’s quest for survival, and the challenges that veterans faced both during their time in service and while trying to readjust to life at home.
The Bureau of Land Management (“BLM”) estimated that 83,000 wild horses and burros were roaming public rangelands in 2018, more than three times what the BLM says the land can support. We are proud to play a role in assisting with the training and homing of these beautiful creatures.
The Inclusion of Veteran Families
BCI is unique not only because it aims to cultivate communication skills and self-awareness through groundwork with mustangs (as opposed to riding), but also because it includes family members as a part of the process. Each veteran participant will be able to bring a spouse (or domestic partner) and up to two children under the age of 18 with them for the week. Veterans may also choose to bring a family member other than a spouse (e.g. sibling, or parent) who has served as his or her main source of support after returning home.
The BCI team feels strongly that family members of veterans must be part of the reintegration process. Many veteran programs often create yet another experience that veterans go through alone, leaving the families unable to fully understand what their loved ones are dealing with. BCI’s program opens that door, and allows veterans and family members to engage in the reintegration process (and the struggle associated with it) together, in a safe environment that is both challenging and fun.
Beyond the BCI Equine Program
In addition to the equine program, BCI will offer veterans services such as peer-to-peer mentoring and career counseling, as well as interview preparation and resume review. While providing its own unique platform, BCI aims to cultivate strategic partnerships that will help connect veterans with other programs that already provide services in this space.
With actively involved board members spread across the country, we go where we are needed! The veteran community is as diverse as it is expansive. In order to effectively respond to the needs of that community, BCI developed an equine program that can be implemented wherever needed, or wanted, as long as three fundamental elements are available.
BCI’s Three Fundamental Elements: (i) interested veterans and their families; (ii) mustangs in need of training, along with a qualified mustang trainer and equine assisted learning specialist; and (iii) ranch style housing that offers participants the opportunity to fully immerse themselves in the horsemanship experience.
While that third prong might sound a bit like a vacation, the BCI team understands the powerful role that environment plays in societal reintegration and emotional fortitude. Therefore, the BCI team believes it is essential that veterans are afforded the opportunity to utilize the communication skills they cultivate from their time training mustangs throughout the program, in an environment that is fun, engaging, and community oriented.
BCI’s pilot program was conducted in Tucson Arizona in May 2019. All training sessions with mustangs took place at Dream Horse AZ, under the supervision of mustang trainer Jeff Cook and equine assisted learning specialist Anne Winther. Veterans and their families were housed at White Stallion Ranch, where participants were able to utilize the ranch facilities, participate in ranch activities (including trail rides, hiking, rock climbing, and bike riding), and in BCI tailored horsemanship clinics and lessons under the supervision of our head wrangler, Carol Bachmann.
For more information on our pilot check out our video!
Stay tuned for more information on our 2020 program, which will also take place in Tucson!
The BCI Story
BCI was founded by life-long friends Deborah Plum & Theo Windish, who each have experience in both the private and public sectors, and who have spent a significant portion of their professional lives connecting people, being a part of charitable groups, and investing their time in projects that served a variety of communities. Learn more about us!
The desire to create something sustainable that truly gives back to generations of people, combined with a palpable awareness of the noticeable decline in comprehensive veteran services, particularly ones that include families as part of the process, led the BCI team to conclude that the veteran community was where they needed to focus their energy.