WQW

Alumni Programs


More Opportunities for Long-term Growth and Connection

After the first Fishing Experience (FX), veterans and their loved ones are part of the WQW family for life. WQW offers several ways for alumni to return to Quiet Waters Ranch, like our stand-alone Alumni Programs and our newest program — Built for More.

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Built for More

If you thought your first FX was transformative, buckle up for Built for More—a life-changing expedition into both nature and self, from which no participant emerges the same. Through outdoor pursuits, supportive comrades, and an online personal growth program, our newest, most comprehensive offering guides you to your own definition of “living better.” Over six months to a year with a tight-knit cohort and an expert-informed facilitator, Built for More will lead you to deeper connection to yourself, your people, and your purpose.

Virtual Experience

Discovery Phase

Capstone Fishing Experience (FX)

Virtual Experience

You'll begin with a Virtual Experience — a one-week period where alumni will engage in online guided discussions and media.

Discovery Phase

Next is the Discovery Phase. Over six to twelve months online, you’ll video conference with your small cohort and facilitator, working together through concepts geared to recalibrate your life’s trajectory. Informed by experts and supported by your cohort, you’ll follow our structured process to build your version of a better life from the ground up.

Goals

  • Cement habits to improve your health in every area—mind, body, and spirit

  • Refine strategies to meet and exceed your basic needs so you can focus on personal growth

  • Build deeper community within your cohort, creating a support team for ongoing improvement

  • Identify your meaningful purpose and create a plan to actualize it

Capstone Fishing Experience (FX)

Your cohort will conclude the Discovery Phase by coming together at Quiet Waters Ranch to solidify in person the relationships that began months ago during the Virtual Experience. More alive, more grounded, and more connected to what (and who) matters most, transformed Warriors gather in nature to honor the journey and commit wholly to the path ahead. It’s the last phase of Built for More — and the first phase of your recalibrated life.

Goals

  • Reunite with your cohort face to face, solidifying your new second family of support

  • Relax into nature, refreshing your sense of possibility

  • Sharpen your skills for maintaining healthy outdoor pursuits at home

  • Celebrate the hard work and the big changes together, growing your conviction to keep leveling up

Built for More Capstone Experiences

Overnight River Experience

Backcountry FX

Ice FX

Overnight River Experience

While fishing or canoeing Montana rivers, Warriors spend four nights away from it all, floating to four different campsites along places like the iconic Smith River in central Montana. Paired with seasoned fishing guides, Warriors have ample opportunities to hone their fly fishing skills learned in the first FX. Away from cell phone service, wifi, and the stresses of everyday life, Warriors find mental space to reflect on their service and connect with fellow Warriors, fly fishing guides, and volunteers.

Goals

  • Create a renewed connection to the WQW community

  • Renewed connection with the restorative capacity of nature

  • Find relief from stress and anxiety of day-to-day life

  • Develop a sense of accomplishment through the completion of a challenging trip

  • Find a space to make meaning of your service and your future as a Veteran

Backcountry FX

The Backcountry FX is an enhanced take on our traditional Solo FX for WQW Alumni looking to practice their skills in a new environment. Warriors traverse into the high alpine country of Southwest Montana for four nights with the assistance of llamas to carry their gear. They then set camp and make their way to mountain waters and streams in and around camp to fly fish. The pristine wilderness is the ideal place for Warriors to disconnect from everyday anxieties and reconnect to their purpose.

Goals

  • Create a renewed connection to the WQW community

  • Renewed connection with the restorative capacity of nature

  • Find relief from stress and anxiety of day-to-day life

  • Develop a sense of accomplishment through the completion of a challenging trip

  • Find a space to make meaning of your service and your future as a Veteran

Ice FX

During an Ice FX, Warriors and loved ones can return to Montana in the winter to brave the icy temperatures and learn to fish in a majestic frozen landscape. We provide the cold-weather clothing, gear, and skills to fish comfortably and confidently. After fishing, participants have plenty of time to warm up at Quiet Waters Ranch, reconnect with their military community, and consider their purpose after service.

Goals

  • Create a renewed connection to the WQW community

  • Renewed connection with the restorative capacity of nature

  • Find relief from the stress and anxiety of day-to-day life

  • Develop a sense of accomplishment through the completion of a challenging trip

  • Find a space to make meaning of your service and your future as a Veteran

Other Alumni Programs

Couples FX

Family FX

Photography Experience

Couples FX

The Couples FX brings six couples together who often share common experiences. WQW created the Couples FX recognizing that there are unique challenges in post-combat relationships. On a Couples FX, Warriors and their partners get to spend uninterrupted days on the water, nurturing their relationships and learning new skills together. For those with children, WQW pays for the cost of a trusted friend or family member to provide in-home childcare while the couple is away.

Goals

  • Create a safe, supportive environment where couples find peace and connection

  • Provide tools and confidence to participate in a new shared activity

  • Provide a new way for couples to bond and relax together

Family FX

The Family FX brings together three military families. We launched our pilot Family FX in the summer of 2021. The Family FXs are designed to provide a safe and supportive environment for military families, create an enhanced sense of community through meaningful connections, improve intra-familial communication, and strengthen couples' relationships and parent-child relationships.

Goals

  • Provide peace and relaxation for the entire family in a safe, supportive environment

  • Teach participants to fish and enable them to continue fishing as a family upon returning home

  • Create an enhanced sense of community through lasting, meaningful connections with other families, volunteers, and staff

  • Improve intra-family communication

  • Strengthen couples’ relationships as well as parent-child relationships

Photography Experience

The Photography Experience (PX) gives Warriors the opportunity to explore the art of photography while being present for multiple WQW programs. Warriors attend the PX in the pursuit of discovering or enhancing their level of photography under the tutelage of WQW photographer and former Combat Correspondent SGT Mike MacLeod. The Warriors will receive instruction in photography basics, landscape, and human portraiture. At the conclusion of the week, they will combine all elements learned to produce a final project photo. Through this process, they will engage with the group of six Warriors in a shared activity that they will take home and either pursue personally or professionally. The PX does not end with one week-long experience in Montana though. These Warriors will travel back to Montana up to three different times the following season to shoot a WQW program and apply their newfound or enhanced skills in photography to capture other Warriors and supply them with priceless memories of their time at WQW.

Goals

  • Provide a renewed sense of purpose, identity, and values

  • Teach participants the art of photography from a professional and enable them to continue this art upon returning home

  • Create an enhanced sense of community through lasting, meaningful connections found in a common pursuit and growth in a network of other professional photographers

  • Newfound or enhanced skill and confidence in photography that can be applied anywhere personally or professionally

Conservation FX

COMMIT Partnership Workshop

Hunt for Purpose

Conservation FX

The Conservation FX connects Warrior Alumni to a conservation partner through a meaningful, hands-on project to protect and restore coldwater fisheries. Warriors gain a deep understanding of fish habitats and experience the value of giving back to the resources they recreate in.

Goals

  • Find satisfaction and self-esteem through giving back to the environment
  • Create a renewed connection to the WQW community
  • Increase connection with the restorative capacity of nature
  • Develop a sense of accomplishment through the completion of a conservation project

COMMIT Partnership Workshop

The COMMIT Foundation conducts transition workshops for veterans and service members at Quiet Waters Ranch in collaboration with WQW. This partnership serves both WQW Alumni and COMMIT participants.

Goals

  • Gain a positive understanding of the veteran reintegration process after service

  • Identify your values, strengths, culture and opportunities

  • Set the stage for a passionate pursuit of a meaningful career

Hunt for Purpose

Hunt for Purpose is an intensive, 6-month pursuit to plan, prepare for and execute a successful archery elk hunt in Montana’s backcountry. Along the way, participants will learn the basics of elk hunting and backcountry survival, improve their physical fitness, and work alongside fellow Warriors and loved ones toward a common goal.

Goals

  • Discover strengths and passions that point you to your larger purpose
  • Learn holistic wellness (mental, physical, and spiritual)
  • Achieve and sustain meaningful connections with the other Warriors, staff, and volunteers
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Volunteer as an Alumni

Give back to the WQW community in a fulfilling way by volunteering as an alumni. We encourage all alumni to return to serve as a Companion, Mom/Dad, Team Lead or Assistant Team Lead, or in some other capacity.

Learn More About Volunteering

Participant FAQs

Yes, Quiet Waters Ranch is accessible for people with disabilities. We work to accommodate all disabilities to the fullest extent possible. Our staff, guides, and volunteers are well-versed at accommodating various types of disabilities and conditions (including those who are visually and audibly impaired) to ensure a positive and rewarding experience.

Applications to apply for one of these programs will be available winter of 2022. Historically, Warrior Alumni have been able to email our program team, and we ask that you use this application for all future programs.

Yes. WQW has a service dog acknowledgment and agreement that allows service dogs to go fishing with participants.

Built for More is our foundation now—a richer, fuller program that can foster even more powerful results than our shorter outdoor immersions. Once you’ve gone through Built for More, you can take part in shorter alumni programs, but first time Warriors must complete Built for More first.

Nature, respite, and camaraderie are key motivators in making the big changes this program encourages, so the in-person outdoor excursions are required. Many of us are veterans ourselves and understand hesitation to travel for various reasons. Please reach out so we can do whatever is in our power to make this trip possible for you.

Yes! Everything from clothing to equipment is yours to keep. Our goal is to set you up with everything you need so you can continue to tap into your new skills independently without gear as a barrier.

No, you DO NOT have to be a Purple Heart recipient to qualify for our programs.

Let us be the judge—we have many years of experience carefully choosing participants who we predict can get the most out of our programs. We also have multiple Built for Mores happening at the same time and enable hundreds of participants to complete our programs each year

First—are you a post-911 combat veteran who deployed to a combat theater and engaged with or were engaged by enemy forces in the post-9/11 era? Secondly, do you feel stuck or ready to make a major change in your life—even if you don’t know what it is? If the answer to both is yes, apply. Our program is designed to meet you where you are in every sense, even if it’s different from where others in your cohort may be.

Currently, we get more applications than we can accept, and we choose those who we think can benefit most from our programs. Good fits who aren’t chosen this round will be waitlisted for future programs. These applicants will be the first to hear when there are new openings.

WQW has an active zero alcohol policy on all experiences.

Built for More discusses spiritual fitness, not religion. Essentially, there’s space in our program to incorporate any spiritual practices that contribute to your growth. We do not take or encourage any particular religious stance (including being religious at all), and we ask that you respect religious differences across your cohort.

Absolutely. WQW strives to build long-term relationships with our participants and we are always looking to have you return for more experiences or as a volunteer. However, Warriors who attend their first experience are not guaranteed an invitation to return for future programs.

Yes, there is wifi and cell phone service at the ranch so that participants can connect with their loved ones as needed while they’re away. However, the ranch is an ideal place to take a break from your devices and reconnect with yourself and your community. We highly recommend being fully present as much as possible for this one-of-a-kind experience.

While we relied on experts to develop our program, it is completely non-clinical and non-medical. That said, we support Warriors in getting all the care they need, and you’ll continue your existing care during the program. If therapy or psychiatric care is something you choose to start during the program, we’re happy to make recommendations for veteran-focused organizations.

The program is designed to be challenging in the right ways, at a reasonable pace. If you can commit to the two weeks of travel and six months to a year of spending a few hours a month on yourself, you can do this.

If you’re facing something exceptionally tough, please let us know in the application. In many cases, we’ve worked through it before. Sometimes, we know another organization that could be a better resource.

These proven expeditions are still the bookends to Built for More—but now, there’s an essential new program in between. Over the years, Warriors were impressed with how these reflective outdoor adventures could serve as a turning point in their lives but requested more guidance for making long term changes. Built for More answers that call with a structured, expert-driven program that still relies heavily on those original excursions.

There are still a number of shorter specialty programs for alumni, but all first-time Warriors now start with Built for More.

Built for More is a program we developed ourselves, rooted in in-depth research, evidence-based expertise in wellness and psychology, and our own years of experience. It’s structured to be challenging, but not overwhelming, as you dive into self-exploration, identify areas of growth, and develop healthy habits. You can expect elements of video, facilitated group discussion, reflection, and skill development exercises.

WQW programs are at no cost to the participant including paid-for air travel to Montana, comfortable lodging and home-cooked meals, professional instruction, and gear for trip’s activities.

Built for More programs launch throughout the year and are timed around the best outdoor conditions. When you apply, we’ll work with you to figure out where you fit in best. Sometimes, this means the program moves more quickly over six months, or a bit more slowly over a year. In every case, it’s doable.

For this proof-of-concept run of Hunt for Purpose, WQW opened applications to WQW program alumni in January 2022. Five participants were selected for the first cohort of Hunt for Purpose. Applications will open again in winter of 2022 for the second cohort of this new program.

All applications and service documents are thoroughly reviewed for qualifying criteria by our Program Team.

Selection for a WQW program is NOT GUARANTEED even if all program criteria are met. Selection is at WQW’s discretion and we appreciate your understanding.

Our experiences are for post-9/11 combat veterans and their loved ones who are looking for a new way to connect, grow, explore purpose, and thrive.

While our application is open to all post-9/11 combat veterans, our selection process strives to select and place applicants with the greatest need. Even if all selection criteria are met, selection for our programs (first-time and Alumni programs) is solely at the discretion of Warriors & Quiet Waters. Requirements for selection include:

  • Must be a Post-9/11 Combat Veteran

  • Must provide a DD214 Member-4 copy and current photos

  • If active duty, current service record will be requested

  • If you are a caregiver, we require the above information on your care recipient

  • Must be committed to positive growth

  • Must be willing to engage in a supportive group environment

Currently, we’re focused on making our programs richer and more effective for the same number of veterans annually. For now, we aim to grow in impact, not size, working hard to offer transformative experiences to roughly 300 veterans a year.