Lead by example
Raytheon, No Barriers alum coaching 2018 expedition team of veterans
Twenty miles down the Colorado River, deep inside the Grand Canyon, a short trail leads to a tranquil, secluded waterfall. For retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. James Bishop and 13 other veterans, the shaded pool at its bottom offered a welcome respite during the 2016 Raytheon-No Barriers Veteran Wilderness Expedition.
As they experienced the challenging trek, it gave them a moment to reflect.
“I did not have any idea of how the No Barriers activities, which are blended into the expedition, would affect me,” Bishop said. “This experience was the final push I needed to help me overcome obstacles in my life.”
Bishop has returned to the Grand Canyon, but this time as an alumnus coach for the 2018 Veteran Wilderness Expedition team. No Barriers is taking 13 disabled veterans from Alabama, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas to participate in the Raytheon-funded journey.
The expedition is designed to push participants physically, through long-distance hiking and rafting, as well as mentally, while providing a foundation for stretching goals, facing adversity and leading others. This is the fifth year that Raytheon and No Barriers Warriors have partnered for a Veteran Wilderness Expedition.
“I want to help each veteran identify at least one future goal that they can accomplish within the first six months after the expedition,” Bishop said. “My hope is that with one accomplishment, it will encourage them to focus on the next one and next one.”
This year, Bishop is providing encouragement and support to participants, sharing his personal story of struggles and success to encourage others to face their challenges. The volunteer position is a nine-month commitment, supporting team members pre- and post-expedition.
“One of the things we wanted to work on was better supporting participants as they worked towards their pledges after their experiences,” said John Toth, executive director of the No Barriers Warriors program. “At the same time, we were thinking of expanding ways our alumni could participate.”
This is the first time an alumnus coach is taking part in a Raytheon-sponsored expedition.
“James wants others to have the same positive experience he did and is willing to put the time and effort in to achieve that outcome,” Toth said.
No Barriers initiatives inform, motivate and empower participants to create and follow personalized plans that in many cases, can make a major difference in life outcomes. Bishop completed a 12-module training on suicide risk, identification and prevention. He also prepared physically for the trek by cycling six days a week.
Bishop was nominated for the 2016 expedition by a fellow colleague and friend at Raytheon. He’s worked for the company for the last 20 years, first in supply chain and now in program management, and is based in McKinney, Texas.
He is sharing what he has learned, supporting his team through every phase of the journey, and witnessing 13 veterans break through their own barriers – just as he did on that trek up the Canyon rim two years ago.
“I know it changed my life," he said, "and have seen it change the lives of those in my group as well.”
Meet the 2018 Veteran Wilderness Expedition team: