Sailing journey has healing goal

Gurkha Army Rifleman Anil Gurung talks about sailing on the Challenger as part of the British Services Transglobe Expedition after arriving in Charleston Wednesday morning. Gurung lost his right leg while fighting in Afghanistan and is one of several mili

Brad Nettles

A crew of British military members who saw action in Iraq and Afghanistan stopped in the Charleston City Marina on Wednesday aboard three 67-foot boats.

Their mission? Healing.

"This expedition gives the injured servicemen the opportunity to reintegrate psychologically and physically so they can get back to where they need to be," said Richard Tarr, a Marine engineer and the skipper of the vessel Adventure.

The crews of the the British Services Transglobe Expedition sail throughout the world, stopping at Auckland, New Zealand, the Canary Islands, Montevideo, Uruguay, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and other locations. A total of 42 active-duty service members, 12 of whom are amputees, make up the crew who serve in the Royal Air Force, Army and Navy. Captain Ian Kane of the Royal Navy was in charge of the Air Force ship Discover, and Defense Attache Andy Mills led the Army ship Yacht Challenger.

"It provides adventure for the service personnel while taking them out of their comfort zone," Kane said. "Teamwork, cooperation, adversity, you name it and they go through it."

The expedition also involved Gurkhas troops, which are Nepalese troops that operate with British services. "They're tough and utterly ruthless, but sailing was a new challenge for them," Mills said.

Anil Gurung, a 22-year-old rifleman of the Second Gurkha Army Battalion, stepped on a land mine while serving in Afghanistan. He has a prosthetic leg.

"It was totally different while sailing because at home I had more space." Still, Gurung said he enjoyed the expedition.

Although the Gurkha troops will be leaving from Charleston to go to the United Kingdom, Kane said the rest of the expedition will continue as they leave for Boston on Sunday. "The expedition will exchange skippers every two weeks, but the entire sail will take 11 months," Kane said.

The British Expedition arrived in Charleston just as a local doctor is initiating the Veterans On Deck program, which has the same objective as the British Expedition.

"We want our servicemen to bounce back from medical and psychological injuries through recovery and team-building under stressful situations," said Ron Acierno, director of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder program at the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center. "With help from OnDeck, City Marina and West Marine, we want to start on a small scale for our own servicemen."