By Sarah Bartnick, WTC Stratcom
“Your life could be better through sports.” That’s Lt. Col. Danny Dudek’s advice for all wounded, ill or injured Soldiers recovering at Warrior Transition Units.
And he knows what he’s talking about. Not only did he command the Joint Base Lewis-McCord WTB after recovering from a spinal cord injury, he’s also defending three golds and a silver from his first Warrior Games.
As a WTB commander, Dudek saw success at the individual level when medical professionals focused on a “positive” profile. “Instead of listing all the things a Soldier can’t do, some great doctors would list what the Soldiers can do,” he explained. “For example, if my profile said I could go swimming, that swimming was good for my recovery, then my Squad Leader could make it my place of duty.”
“A lot of Soldiers aren’t willing to put themselves out there,” said Dudek. “Cadre and commanders can create an environment where Soldiers are willing to try, especially in small groups of five or less—epiphanies happen in small groups.”
Dudek encourages all WTU Soldiers to try an adaptive sport that’s best suited for their personality. He competes in triathlons, skiing, and a variety of other sports throughout the year. “Not everyone’s a daredevil like me,” he grinned as he leaned his wheelchair back into a wheelie. “More exacting people like golf or shooting, but I like the element of danger.”
When he wrote the Comprehensive Transition Plan (CTP) policy and guidance, Dudek emphasized adaptive reconditioning and Career and Employment Readiness, “because they’re both essential building blocks to transition,” he said. “They enhance your quality of life.”
Going into the Warrior Games, Dudek’s most excited about his parents’ support. “Cycling is on Mother’s Day,” he added, “and this year, both my parents are coming.”