When Focusing on the Physical, Don’t Forget the Mental

January 13, 2012 – WTC’s first 2012 Warrior Games cycling clinic participants in San Diego, CA. From left to right, SSG Mario Bilbrew, Warrior Games Army cycling coach, SGT Jonte Scott, with service dog, Ava, SSG Vester (Max) Hasson, SGT Lester Perez, and SFC Jason Sterling.

By SSG Emily Anderson, WTC Stratcom
SFC Jason Sterling, SSG Vester (Max) Hasson, SGT Lester Perez, and SGT Jonte Scott, Soldiers in the Joint Base Lewis-McChord Warrior Transition Unit thought they were attending the first Warrior Transition Command cycling clinic, in San Diego, California,  to learn how to improve their cycling skills, but their training  involved more than just the physical aspects required for Warrior Games competition..

“This clinic gave everyone a chance to see what they need to work on, physically and mentally,” said SSG Mario Bilbrew, the Warrior Games Army’s cycling event coach. “It’s good to see everyone taking this seriously and giving their all.”

The clinic is one of three scheduled for Army cycling athletes who want to compete in the 2012 Warrior Games. The athletes will have to qualify with the best timed cycling performances to be on the Army’s cycling team.

Dr. Shannon Baird and Kaitlyn Donohoe, performance enhancement specalists from the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness-Performance and Resilience Enhancement Program (CSF-PREP) were among the clinic’s attendees. CSF-PREP is an organization that provides education and training about mental and emotional strength building, and psychology techniques.

“Shannon and Kaitlyn explained to the athletes that it’s not just a physical performance, but also a mental competition,” Bilbrew said.

The specialists taught the clinic’s participants how to use words or phrases called cues to counteract negative thoughts and constantly reinforced the ideas of goal setting and positive thinking as the athletes practiced cycling skills and other specialized techniques.

“It’s important to interrupt ineffective thoughts. The training and tips we provide help with that,” said Baird. “This is the fuel that you need to feel inspired and gain energy.”

Baird and Donohoe taught an hour and a half class focusing on understanding the differences between skills, attitudes, and gifts.

Throughout the clinic, athletes were constantly asked questions such as “how would they like people to describe them” and “what is your goal for the day” to help them understand how to incorporate mental and emotional concepts and remain focused during the cycling competition.

“It’s necessary to set a goal each time, before you sit down on your cycles.  Ask yourself, what’s going to get me one step closer to this goal,” Baird added. “That will be what makes you stand apart. It’s a roadmap to success.”

Army Warrior Games Training Comes to Fort Bliss

January 13, 2012 MSG Fernando Verones, Army Shooting Team Assistant Coach, demonstrates how to shoot the air rifle during the WTC shooting clinic held at the University of Texas, El Paso. Clinic participants are vying for a spot on the Army's Warrior Games 2012 shooting team. Photo Credit: SGT Valerie Lopez

By SGT Valerie Lopez, Headquarters 1st Armored Division
Inhale… exhale, the sound of breathing in a small quiet room, inhale…exhale, then a sudden pop as the pellet is shot from an air rifle into the target. The room is filled with Soldiers taking their shots at the tryouts for the 2012 Warrior Games Army shooting team.

25 wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers gathered from different installations at Fort Bliss and El Paso to participate in the Warrior Transition Command (WTC) shooting training clinic from January 11-14.

“This is our very first of three shooting clinics for selecting the 2012 Warrior Games Army shooting team,” said MSG Howard Day, Army shooting coach and student at United States Sergeants Major Academy (USASMA). “We partnered with University of Texas El Paso and Fort Bliss Warrior Transition Battalion (WTB, and representatives from Army Marksmanship Unit (USAMU) in order to make this clinic happen.”

The first Warrior Games was held in 2010, as an introduction to Paralympic sports for wounded, ill, and injured servicemembers and Veterans of all services: Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, and Special Operations. During this year’s games, servicemembers and Veterans will compete in seven sports: archery, cycling, shooting, sitting volleyball, swimming, track and field, and wheelchair basketball.

This year the Army’s shooting training camp was held at the University of Texas, El Paso’s (UTEP) ROTC building. The participating Soldiers and Veterans lodged in the Fort Bliss WTB Barracks.

“This year’s mission is to bring home the gold from the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado”, said Day.

During the clinic, the organizers setup three stations:-mental, physical, and range practice.

In the mental station, Lindsay Holtz, Performance Enhancement Specialist assisted shooters to create imagery scripts to do mental practice when they don’t have a weapon.

“It’s like a movie script that you play in your head to  help you keep your patterns, muscles, and mind prepared for when you go back out there,” said Holtz.

UTEP women’s shooting coach George Brenzovich and student athlete Andrea Vautrin, exchanging ideas with the shooters on different ways to deal with anxieties and the pressures of competing. They also demonstrated alternate positions for shooting pertaining to each person’s disabilities or weaknesses.

The third station was an indoor air shooting range at the ROTC building where the participants practiced shooting and received instructions from coach Day, assistant coaches, and USASMA students MSG Fernando Verones, MSG Roger Lewis, and SGM Martin Barreras with the Army Marksmanship Unit (AMU).

“Despite their circumstances, these participants all come together to compete,” said Day.

One Soldier, SPC James Darlington, from the Walter Reed Army Medical Center WTB, at the young age of 19 was deployed with the 82nd Airborne when his group was hit with two rocket propelled grenades in July 2010, and his arm was struck. With nerve damage and muscle loss in his right arm, Darlington, now 21 years old, has his mom with him as his non-medical attendant.

“He did his job well,” said Gery Darlington, “because everyone came home from that deployment. He’s here alive, and we can deal with whatever happens with his arm.”

“The WTB has great programs to help Soldiers transition back to their units, and other activities to keep us from getting down,” said Darlington. “The shooting clinic helped us get better at shooting. I’m looking forward to getting on the team.”

The Soldiers’ injuries here run the full scope,” said Day, “from traumatic brain injury (TBI), to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), to amputations. Many have multiple injuries and other medical conditions that challenge them.

SSG Tracy J. Smith, Alpha Company, CBWTU Georgia, Army National Guard with 48th Brigade, was deployed three times to Iraq and Afghanistan, survived mortar rounds, explosions, and firefights. Now battling TBI and PTSD, three pins in her knee and 50% hearing loss, Smith continues to stay active in everyday life.

“I was initially introduced to adaptive sports, and wanted to stay active and physically fit, so I did archery, seated shot put, track and field events, power lifting, and now marksmanship,” said Smith.

Smith said because of the TBI and the PTSD, she was at first nervous to handle a weapon, but after watching someone use the air rifle, it was not as “off-putting”. It was almost therapeutic.

“It’s almost a very easy reintroduction into the basics of Soldiering, but also very different from what we are taught in marksmanship,” said Smith. “I am doing this for those that can’t, for my battle buddy who is partly paralyzed and unable, because he would have if our situations were reversed.”

“Eighty-three Soldiers applied, and 75 were notified that they were eligible for these clinics,” said Day. “From these clinics, the best [shooters] will be put together to form our Army team.”

As a wounded Soldier himself, Day said it is vital for Soldiers to recognize that the injuries are not the end of their career and definitely not the end of possibilities in life.

“This is nothing but a speed bump, a simple turn in the road,” said Day. “There is a big bright future and lots of opportunities.”

For more information on the Warrior Games, visit http://usparalympics.org/military-and-veteran-programs/warrior-games-presented-by-deloitte

AW2 Soldier’s Sight Set on Gold

SGT Lester Perez started his cycling session with the arms-and-shoulder rotation, an exercise to prepare the upper body for physical activity, during the first Warrior Transition Command’s cycling clinic held January 13-14 in Coronado, CA. Photo Credit: SSG Emily Anderson

By SSG Emily Anderson, WTC Stratcom
Winning a gold medal during the 2011 Warrior Games wheelchair basketball tournament was not enough for SGT Lester Perez, an AW2 Soldier assigned to the Warrior Transition Unit (WTU) at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington.

“It felt great winning gold in wheelchair basketball, but that’s a group sport. I want to win in cycling, my individual event,” said Perez who participated in Warrior Transition Command (WTC) cycling clinics held in Coronado, California, January 13-14.

The training clinic gave candidates a chance to improve their cycling skills and honed their techniques as they prepared for selection for one of the cycling slots on the Army’s 2012 Warrior Games  team.

“Everyone’s working hard,” said SSG Mario Bilbrew, the Army Warrior Games cycling coach. “This clinic gave the participants a chance to see how well they are doing and what they need to continue to work on before the next one.”

Warrior Games is a sporting competition for wounded, ill, and injured athletes from the Army, Marine Corps, Navy/Coast Guard, Air Force, and Special Operations Command where servicemembers compete for gold, silver, and bronze medals in seven sports at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

“The games are great,” Perez said, “I love being a part of something so challenging and rewarding.”

During the clinic, athletes practiced proper gear changes, the correct way to breathe while performing, how to navigate around other athletes, and how important it is to listen to the rhythm of the bike during the ride.

“Cycling is much different than wheelchair basketball,” said Perez, who competed with the gold-medal Army team in 2011 after breaking both his legs during an improvised explosive device explosion while deployed in February 2010. “No one’s there, helping me do anything. I’m responsible for everything, good or bad.”

Participants found out their best cycling performances from the coach when he timed their completion of 6.2 miles around the track. Since only athletes with the best timed trials during the next two clinics qualify to compete in the Warrior Games, the coach made sure the athletes knew their times before they attended the next cycling clinic in February.

“I’ve had to get use to the pedaling with the hand cycle. It’s all upper body,” said Perez, who had a time of 16 minutes and 53 seconds during the timed trials. “The clinic was very informative and a learning experience that will help in the future.”

Perez, who practices six days a week for his events, will try to compete again in the wheelchair basketball event and hopes to participate in sitting volleyball during the Warrior Games.

“I think this will be my last year competing because when I  leave the WTU I  start working for another unit as an intelligence analyst,” said Perez.  Perez has completed his Comprehensive Tranisiton Plan goals and training for a new  military occupational specialty.“We all have to overcome challenges. I think I’ve adapted pretty well to everything,” Perez said. “Even if you get hurt in the Army, it’s not the end. You have to go out and live life.”

AW2 Veteran and Advocate Competes with ‘Fire in His Belly’ for a Slot on the Army Warrior Games Sitting Volleyball Team

By Erich Langer, Warrior Transition Command Public Affairs

AW2 Veteran and Advocate Armando Mejia is one of 41 Soldiers and Veterans competing at a University of Central Oklahoma clinic for a slot on the Army Warrior Games sitting volleyball team.

For one particular Veteran competing for a position on the 2012 Army Warrior Games sitting volleyball team, the selection clinic taking place this week in Oklahoma is pretty serious stuff.  Armando Mejia focused like a laser beam and was ‘all ears’ as he attentively listened to clinic organizers, USA Volleyball coaches and other cadre discuss the training schedule, expectations and responsibilities for each of the players seeking a coveted slot on the prestigious Army team that will compete for gold at next spring’s Warrior Games.

Another boring Army training brief not unlike scores of others he likely has heard throughout his military career? Nope, for Mejia this is all business.

Warrior Games is a joint endeavor between the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) and the U.S. Department of Defense. As many as 200 wounded, ill, and injured athletes from the Army, Marine Corps, Navy-Coast Guard, Air Force and Special Operations Command will compete next spring for gold medals in seven sports at the USOC’s National Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

“After hearing about the opportunity to compete and represent the Army at the Warrior Games, I knew I wanted to do this,” said Mejia who credited MSG Rebeca Garo, AW2 Adaptive Sports Liaison who is serving as cadre staff for the clinic to getting him signed up for the clinic. “She was very enthusiastic about Warrior Games and provided me all the information I needed, she got me really excited about this opportunity.”

You can tell by looking in his eyes, this is something he wants. Coaches won’t have any motivational or discipline problems with Mejia; more likely, he’ll be a team leader that younger Soldiers and Veterans will look to for inspiration and guidance.

This ‘ain’t’ his first rodeo!

“I want to push myself physically and mentally during this week’s clinic,” said Mejia. “It feels great to be part of a team and the camaraderie is outstanding. It’s hard to describe the feelings of being part of a group that is focused on winning and becoming a more cohesive unit.”

His road to the University of Central Oklahoma’s (UCO) Army Warrior Gamessitting volleyball team selection clinic began in October 2004 while on a deployment to Iraq.  Mejia was traveling in a convoy when his HUMVEE was struck by an Improvised Explosive Devise (IED). Following the blast, his vehicle rolled 360 degrees.  He was pinned beneath the HUMVEE; injuries included broken bones, internal bleeding, Traumatic Brain Injury, and Post Traumatic Stress.  After more than 22 surgeries, Mejia decided to transition to Veteran status.


As an AW2 Veteran, Mejia is among more than 9,000 of the Army’s most severely wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers and Veterans.  His affiliation with the Army could have ended there after all, he wasn’t in uniform any longer and the world presented him several opportunities.  Mejia chose a different path, a path that would lead him directly back to helping and working with Soldiers. No, he wouldn’t be wearing ACUs anymore but he would be responsible for scores of Soldiers as a newly minted AW2 Advocate.

“Mejia is something really special,” said Garo.  “He knew he wanted to help Soldiers like himself and continue to be a leader and mentor for others. So, he worked with his AW2 Advocate, Sue Maloney, who provided him some advice and recommendations on how to proceed. He his among as many as 200 AW2 Advocates working with, for, and on behalf of the Army’s most severely wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers.”

Like Maloney, Mejia is assisting severely wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers in the northwest.  He currently is posted at Joint Base Lewis McCord (JBLM).


WTC Soldier Reunites with Sister at Army’s 2012 Warrior Games Sitting Volleyball Team Selection Clinic

SGT Jontie Scott, Western Regional Medical Command, Ft. Lewis, Washington, a competitor at the 2012 WTC Warrior Games sitting volleyball team selection clinic pauses from the action on the court to chat with her sister Caroline, a student at the University of Central Oklahoma. Scott's service dog, Ava, sits patiently as the sisters catch up with each other after being apart for several years.

By Erich Langer, WTC Stratcom
When SGT Jontie Scott learned that she would be traveling to Oklahoma for the Army’s 2012 Warrior Games sitting volleyball team selection clinic, her first shout out was to her sister Caroline. The sisters are close but hadn’t seen each other in more than five years, so an opportunity to catch up would be great. Scott was injured in Iraq and spent time recovering in Texas, and most recently at the Warrior Transition Unit at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, WA.

“I contacted my sister to tell her I’d be coming to the clinic and thought we might have an opportunity to get together,” said Scott, who is currently assigned to the Western Regional Medical Command (WRMC). “I knew Caroline was living in Oklahoma but didn’t realize she was attending college at the University of Central Oklahoma (UCO). We laugh about it now, but the Warrior Transition Command’s (WTC) sitting volleyball clinic is taking place on the same campus, right down the street from where she lives and goes to school. Sometimes it can be a pretty small world!”

WTC teamed up with UCO, USA Volleyball, and the U.S. Olympic Committee’s Paralympics program for the Oklahoma clinic. Coaches, managers, cadre, and support staff traveled to the university to help the Army athletes fine tune their sitting volleyball skills as they compete for 13 slots on the Army’s 2012 Warrior Games team. The Army Warrior Games team earned a silver medal in 2011, but is committed to earning gold in 2012.

“UCO is an official U.S. Olympic training site and has been an official U.S. Paralympics training site since 2005,” said Elliot Blake, U.S. sitting volleyball athlete recruitment coordinator. “This is the second year UCO and the Army teamed up for a sitting volleyball clinic on campus. The 41 Soldiers and Veterans attending this year’s clinic are very committed to our training regime, which can be pretty intense. From what I’ve seen this week, the athletes here will match up very well against the Marines.”

Scott hopes to be one of those 13 athletes named to the team and worked hard all week to improve her sitting volleyball skills, techniques, and team play.

“I like sports and have always been very competitive, and I think that helps me when I play the seated game,” said Scott. “I learned at Ft. Hood and played at Ft. Lewis for a while now, and think I’m getting better but the competition at the UCO clinic is very intense. Lots of good athletes here.”

Caroline briefly interrupted her sister stating that Jontie is also a very good athlete and competed in several sports including track and field while in high school. “Jontie is much too modest,” said Caroline. “She was an outstanding athlete before she joined the Army and scoots across the volleyball court like a pro. It’s awesome that the Army has an adaptive sports and reconditioning program for their wounded warriors and that clinics like this one are available. I’m just learning about Warrior Games and international competition opportunities these Soldiers and Veterans can set their sights on, and I think it really is great that adaptive sport opportunities exist for the Soldiers.”

Scott competed at the Valor Games in Chicago this past summer and now has a few additional sports under her belt. With that experience she may also compete for cycling and track and field slots on the 2012 Warrior Games team.

“The Valor Games were really fun. I competed in power lifting for the first time and won gold,” said an excited Scott. “I hope I can also earn a slot on the Army Warrior Games track and field and cycling teams. The shot put is new to me but I feel good about running the 100-meter dash and cycling.”

In addition to cheering on her sister, Caroline has another important duty at the clinic: watching and attending to the needs of Scott’s service dog, Ava. The German shepherd goes everywhere with her Soldier and helps her physically and mentally. Ava learned commands in German when trained as a police dog. She was retrained as a service dog and has been by Scott’s side since August.

“Ava is great. She really is my attendant and knows when I get frustrated or tense,” said Scott. “I’m prone to nightmares and knowing that she is there is very comforting. She even helps steady me when I start to lose my balance or need to get up off the floor. I got her free from an organization in Bellingham, Washington and I’m very grateful for them for teaming us up.”

If Scott punches her ticket for the 2012 Warrior Games, you can count on Caroline and Ava to be on the sidelines cheering her to victory.

Oklahoma City YMCA Rolls out the Red Carpet for Soldiers Participating in the 2011 WTC Sitting Volleyball Clinic

By:  Erich Langer, WTC Stratcom
When 41 Soldiers, 14 coaches, WTU cadre, and additional support staff arrived at Oklahoma City’s Will Rogers World Airport, each received a reality check that winter weather had come to America’s southwest.  Snow flurries and frigid temperatures greeted Soldiers traveling from as far away as Europe and Hawaii to participate in the Warrior Transition Command’s (WTC) Warrior Games sitting volleyball team selection clinic. At the conclusion of the week, the Army will announce the team that will compete at the 2012 Warrior Games next spring.

Oklahoma City YMCA Military Welcome Center Volunteers Bob Russum and Jeri Milford (presenting pizza) surprised WTC Soldiers and Veterans with hot pizza upon their arrival at the center. The Soldiers and Veterans are participating in a week-long sitting volleyball clinic at the University of Central Oklahoma in partnership with USA Volleyball and the U.S. Olympic Committee's Paralympics program.

Warrior Games is a joint endeavor between the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) and the U.S. Department of Defense. As many as 200 wounded, ill, and injured athletes from the Army, Marine Corps, Navy-Coast Guard, Air Force, and Special Operations Command will compete next spring for gold medals in seven sports at the USOC’s National Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Despite the cold conditions, the Oklahoma City YMCA Military Welcome Center made sure the Soldiers and Veterans received a warm Oklahoma welcome.

“I’ve got Soldiers, Veterans, coaches, managers, medical personnel, and additional cadre and staff arriving from Army posts around the world for our sitting volleyball clinic,” said SFC Jarrett Jongema, Noncommissioned Officer in Charge (NCOIC), of WTC’s Adaptive Sports and Reconditioning Branch The folks here at the ‘Y’ are great; they have outstanding facilities, great snacks, drinks, computer work stations, comfortable couches, and chairs. It’s just a great place for Soldiers to relax as they await transportation. The ‘Y’ is providing their facilities for our personnel as they arrive and await transport to the hotels.  Our Soldiers are very fortunate that these excellent facilities are staffed by some pretty amazing volunteers here in Oklahoma City.”

YMCA volunteers Bob Russum and Jeri Milford volunteer at the facility and scored a big ‘Hooah!’ from the Army athletes when they arranged for hot pizza to be delivered before the arrival of a large contingent of Soldiers.  Several pepperoni, sausage and cheese pizzas awaited the weary travelers.

“I find it a real rewarding experience, really an honor, to provide these services to our servicemembers,” said Russum, an 82-year-old retired veterinarian and three-year YMCA volunteer. Russum, a Korean War Veteran, served aboard a hospital ship with the Navy. Milford, a housewife and mother of teenage children, was looking for a way to serve when she discovered the opportunity to volunteer at the Military Welcome Center. “To me, it feels really good to do something for people that are so appreciative,” she said. “I like helping people and I can’t think of more deserving folks than the servicemembers who protect all of us.”

The cold weather outside will be an afterthought when the Soldiers and Veterans begin sweating in the training facilities at the University of Central Oklahoma’s (UCO) Wellness Center. Individual and small group drills as well as team fundamentals will be emphasized and hammered home by coaches and team managers. Athletes will have morning and afternoon training sessions that include a mid-day lunch and recuperation break.  

In 2011, the Army sitting volleyball team earned a silver medal after falling short against the Marines in the finals. A renewed effort to train and better prepare to compete against the Navy, Marines, Air Force, Coast Guard, and Special Operations Command have brought the Army athletes to Oklahoma to train with some of the best sitting volleyball coaches in the country. UCO is an official U.S. Olympic Training Site and has been an official U.S. Paralympic Training Site since 2005. At the university, athletes train for Olympic volleyball, archery, and other Paralympic sports. UCO currently hosts 16 resident athletes in the Paralympic sports of sitting volleyball, archery, and track and field. 

“This marks the second year that UCO, USA Volleyball, the U. S. Olympic Committee’s Paralympics program, and the U.S. Army sitting volleyball team have partnered together to train Soldiers and Veterans for the Army Warrior Games team,” said Elliot Blake, U.S. Sitting Volleyball athlete recruitment coordinator. “The majority of these Soldiers and Veterans aren’t new to sitting volleyball, but the clinic will be a focused effort by our coaches, training staff, and managers to help these athletes fine tune the skills as they compete for slots on the team.

Participating Soldiers and Veterans include:
SPC Roland Ada, Tripler Army Medical Center
SPC Michael Blount, Ft. Campbell
SGT Joseph Boscia, European Regional Medical Command
SPC Patricia Chatman, Ft. Eustis
SSG Krisell Creager-Lumpkins, Ft. Carson
SPC Gregory Dame, Ft. Carson
Victor Favero, Veteran
Robbie Gaupp, Veteran
SSG Christopher Gonzalez, Ft. Bliss
SGT Hayro Gonzalez Ft. Hood
SGT Michael Gregory, Ft. Leonard Wood
Lawrence Guerro, Veteran
SFC Aaron Hauzer, Ft. Leonard Wood
SGT Hilton Hunter, Ft. Eustis
SPC Joshua Ivey, Ft. Benning
Chess Johnson, Veteran
SSG Timothy Jones, Ft. Gordon
CPT William Longwell, Walter Reed
SSG Ammala Louangketh, European Regional Medical Command
SSG Derrick Luster, European Regional Medical Command
SGT Delvin Matson, Brooke Army Medical Center
Armando Mejia, Veteran
CPL Brian Miller, Community-Based Warrior Transition UnitVirginia
Douglas Moore, Veteran
SPC Jason Moore, Ft. Meade
SPC Jason Myers, Ft. Stewart
SPC Jared Page, Ft. Sill
1LT Brian Peeler, Western Regional Medical Command
PV2 Joshua Reditt, Ft. Meade
SPC Jacob Richardson, Tripler Army Medical Command
SSG Isacc Rios, European Regional Medical Command
SPC Michael Robinson, European Regional Medical Command
SGT Jonte Scott, Ft. Lewis
SPC Alejandro Seguritan, Brooke Army Medical Center
SGT Monica Southall, Community-Based Warrior Transition UnitVirginia
SFC Jason Sterling, Ft. Lewis
Christopher Strickland, Veteran
SPC Sandy Valdez, Tripler Army Medical Center
CPT Ronald Whetstone, Ft. Bliss
SSG Jessie White, Ft. Meade
SGT Ilisa Zafroski, Ft. Benning


Helping Soldiers On and Off the Court

By: Mark A. Campbell, Guest Blogger
Editor’s Note:  Mark A. Campbell serves as a WTU Master Trainer/WTC Liaison. He joined Comprehensive Soldier Fitness-Performance and Resilience Enhancement Program (CSF-PREP) in 2007, and he is currently working toward his doctorate in Health Promotion andWellness. The expressed comments and views of guest bloggers do not reflect the views of WTC or the United States Army.

The psychology of performance has been around as long as performance itself. Elite performers have always looked for ways to improve their “mental game” and gain a personal edge in competition. The most recognized arena for this has historically been in sports. In the past 50 years, a formal type of sport science has been recognized to legitimize the field of performance psychology. Comprehensive Soldier Fitness-Performance and Resilience Enhancement Program (CSF-PREP) is an organization that provides education and training, based on these performance psychology techniques. CSF-PREP works closely with the Warrior Transition Command (WTC), to provide training to Soldiers and cadre.

November marks Warrior Care Month and to focus on the multi-dimensional aspects of care the theme is, “Healing the Mind, Body, and Spirit: Unlocking Unlimited Potential.” CSF-PREP is focused on helping Warrior Transition Unit (WTU) Soldiers be at their best when it matters most, by building the mental strength required to reach full potential more consistently. In addition to performance education classes, CSF-PREP also assists Soldiers in the WTUs through adaptive reconditioning programs. Adaptive sports help WTU Soldiers learn to apply principles such as building confidence, energy management, and the use of imagery. Along with other CSF-PREP performance lessons, these are a great way for wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers to take their adaptive athletic performance to a higher level. All of the many aspects of care and healing play a part in unlocking that potential.

The most important aspect of this approach is what happens off the court. Excelling in wheelchair basketball or sitting volleyball is a great feat, but learning to use those same mental skills in other areas of life is the real success. The true beauty of the CSF-PREP Performance Education Model is that the skills are transferrable to all of life’s performances. One of my mentors told me that, “A ropes course, used to teach skill building, is only a pile of wood and wire unless you can learn to transfer those skills to other areas of your life.” I couldn’t agree more.

Human beings are multi-dimensional, which means we consistently have a lot going on in our lives. Stop and think for a moment about how many performances you have on any given day. This number is sure to fluctuate, as some days are much busier than others. I would wager that you would struggle with listing them all, because there are so many. How would you like to be able to do all of these things better, consistently? That is what mental skills training can allow you to do, to create the optimal mindset to be at your best consistently. The CSF-PREP model leads to “Mental Strength for Life,” not just for single aspects of life.

CSF-PREP is located at 11 Army installations and provides six days of instruction, to all other WTUs, each quarter. Mobile teams schedule trainings and adaptive reconditioning for WTU Soldiers and cadre. Another service offered is “mastery,” in which a CSF-PREP representative can plan one-on-one sessions. This allows an individual the chance to get deeper into the material by applying it to personal aspects of life.

There are many resources available such as CSF-PREP and the adaptive reconditioning programs, to help you unlock your potential visit the CSF-PREP website for more information.


Commander’s Drumbeat: Military Athletes Compete at Warrior Care Month Sitting Volleyball Tournament

Soldiers playing sitting volleyball block at the net

SGT Juan Alcivar, left, and SSG Jessie White block at the net during a sitting volleyball match between the Army and a Pentagon team of Navy Reservists at the Pentagon Athletic Center on Nov. 22. WTC hosted the All-Service Sitting Volleyball Tournament as a part of Warrior Care Month. Photo Credit: James R. Wenzel

By BG Darryl A. Williams, WTC Commander

The energy was off the charts yesterday as the Pentagon Athletic Center filled with people cheering on our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines—Active Duty, Guard, and Reserve—during the Army Warrior Transition Command Warrior Care Month Sitting Volleyball Tournament.  

 Across the Army this month, units and installations have hosted events and engaged local communities and media to highlight warrior care. This tournament was the Army’s Warrior Care Month pinnacle event in the National Capital Region.  I wish all of you could have experienced the excitement of being among so many people joined together celebrating these wounded, ill and injured men and women—celebrating their service, their abilities, and their amazing spirits. Among the attendees were several senior military leaders including the Vice Chief of Staff of the Army, Director of Army Staff and the Army Surgeon General. 

 Three of the four sitting volleyball teams were made up of wounded, ill, and injured service members—Army, Marines and a Joint team. The fourth team was a Pentagon team of Navy Reservists. I offer a huge shout out to the Pentagon team—they won the tournament with the Army taking second place. It wasn’t an easy win, these players gave their all.

 Army Sgt. Jonathan Duralde said it best, “The other teams were great; it was especially good to see the strategy of the Pentagon team. For us it was a competition and we were there to play regardless of the teams and regardless who won.”  

 Duralde, a below the knee amputee, wounded in Afghanistan in June 2010, recently reenlisted and is continuing on Active Duty. He is assigned to the Warrior Transition Battalion at Fort Belvoir and will soon start working in the Warrior Transition Command. 

 My biggest shout-out goes to all of the competitors. The tournament was about teamwork, cohesion and esprit d ‘corps. You all exemplify the best part of who we are.

 Not only did we see world class military athletes compete, we were privileged to have world class support and participation at this event. Well deserved shout-outs go to some special people:

  •  John Register, one of our tournament commentators. A Paralympics athlete and Army Veteran, he understands the healing power of sports and the significance it can play in the rehabilitation and recovery of our wounded, ill, and injured.
  •  John Kessel, Managing Director, Region Services, USA Volleyball. Kessel joined Register as a commentator and between the two of them kept everyone up to speed on each and every play with interviews about the power of adaptive sports and reconditioning activities between games.
  •  Kari Miller, a former Soldier who lost both her legs as the result of an auto accident involving a drunk driver, who went on to win a Paralympics silver medal in sitting volleyball in 2008. She taught the athletes the tips and tricks of sitting volleyball and refereed the tournament.
  •  Elliot Blake, Sitting Volleyball and Athlete Recruitment Coordinator, USA Volleyball. He also coached and refereed.
  •  Vic Breseford and his team from the Army Media & Visual Information Directorate. They did a super job with sound and getting us live coverage on DVIDS and the Pentagon Channel.
  •  Defense Media Activity (DMA) supported with visual and print staff.
  •  Candice Barlow-Jones. An invaluable member of the WTC team who lent her exceptional voice to our  national anthem, kicking off the event.

 Congratulations to all of the participants.

 I’d enjoy hearing about your Warrior Care Month plans and experiences. Please post your comments on this blog by clicking on the headline and scrolling to the bottom of the page to the comment box.

More information on events at WTUs around the country is available on the WTC website at http://www.wtc.army.mil/.

WTC Will Host Warrior Care Month All Service Sitting Volleyball Tournament

By:  Jim Wenzel, WTC Strategic Communications

WTC will observe Warrior Care Month by hosting an all-service sitting volleyball clinic and tournament at the Pentagon Athletic Center on November 22 with special guest facilitator, Army Veteran and Paralympian Kari Miller.

The Warrior Transition Command (WTC) will host a sitting volleyball training clinic and tournament in the Pentagon Athletic Center (PAC), Tuesday, November 22.  A training clinic is slated for 9:00-10:45am, and the tournament will be held from 11:00am-1:00pm. This tournament commemorates Warrior Care Month, observed each November.

Military teams comprised of wounded, ill, and injured servicemembers from the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines, and Special Operations Command will compete for the event trophy. Pentagon league teams are also expected to participate. Everyone is invited to attend and support these resilient athletes.

Adaptive sports and reconditioning activities such as sitting volleyball play a major role in the recovery and healing process for wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers recovering at Warrior Transition Units (WTUs) across the nation.

Army Veteran and Paralympic volleyball player Kari Miller will help facilitate the clinic and tournament. Miller returned home from a deployment in Bosnia and was riding in the passenger seat of her friend’s car on December 19, 1999. A drunk driver slammed into the back of her friend’s vehicle at 80 mph. The accident required the amputation of her right leg above the knee and her left leg just below.

During the many months of surgery and rehabilitation, Miller could have given in to despair and hopelessness. Instead, she used her natural competitiveness on a journey that led her to become an ambassador for the United States Olympic Committee’s Paralympic Military Program.

“Having a world-class athlete like Kari Miller join us for this tournament gives our Soldiers an opportunity to gain a firsthand perspective of a wounded Soldier’s ability to achieve goals post-injury” said LTC Keith Williams, Officer in Charge (OIC) of the WTC Adaptive Reconditioning Program. “We look forward to Kari motivating both the wounded, ill, and injured athletes and the spectators.”


Warrior Transition Battalion Tips Off Warrior Care Month at Olympic Training Center

By:  Stacy Neumann, Fort Carson Medical Department Activity Public Affairs

The WTB Ft. Carson’s Bravo Company battles it out with Alpha Company in sitting volleyball at the Olympic Training Center. Alpha Company went on to win the sitting volleyball competition.

While strapping into a wheelchair for a game on the United States Olympic Training Center (OTC) courts, SSG Krisell Creager-Lumpkins shook her head and smiled, “It’s not over until it’s over.”

Headquarters & Headquarters Company’s SFC William Ingram from the Ft. Carson WTB attempts to block the ball as Bravo Company tries to make it down the court during a wheelchair basketball game at the Olympic Training Center.

The Soldiers of Fort Carson’s Warrior Transition Battalion (WTB) proved that phrase true over and over on November 3rd and 4th as companies battled head-to-head in the Commander’s Stakes and Mini-Warrior Games. About 100 troops competed in shooting, wheelchair basketball, cycling, sitting volleyball, track and field, archery, and swimming.

Many times, the winner was decided by a single point in the last few seconds.

LTC Mechelle Tuttle, WTB commander, said, “I think it’s inspirational. When you look at someone who has overcome what they’ve had to overcome and see their success, it makes you rethink your outlook on things.”

SGT Chris Champion, who lost a leg in Afghanistan’s Arghandab Valley and is preparing to return to duty with the 4th Infantry Division, added, “It shows that amputees are just as able as everyone else.”

The games kicked off with the WTB’s observance of the Army-wide recognition of Warrior Care Month in November.

BG Darryl Williams, Assistant Surgeon General for Warrior Care and Commander, Warrior Transition Command (WTC), said, “Most people think of the combat injured when they hear the term warrior care. Clearly, there is no greater or higher calling than helping these men and women heal.”

Williams noted, “Warrior care is also the prevention of illnesses and accidents, having the best protective gear, maintaining a strong medical readiness posture, investing in research, and knowing the best trained medics in the world are standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Soldiers on the battlefield.”

Soldiers cheer on Ft. Carson WTB’s SGT Gerardo Madrano as he cycled around the track at Memorial Park in Colorado Springs. The Charlie Company Soldier posted the second best time in the cycling competition.

Across the Army, Warrior Transition Units (WTUs) are holding events to highlight what they and the nation do in the spirit of warrior care.

In addition to the games, Fort Carson WTB Soldiers built and rode on a float in the Colorado Springs Veterans parade.  The battalion is hosting the Department of Defense’s Recovering Warrior Task Force and getting together for a Fall Festival.

“Sports have proven to be therapeutic in the healing process,” she said. “Our goal is to prepare 30 people for the upcoming Warrior Games in April. The only thing limiting yourself–is yourself.”

SSG Creager-Lumpkins is coping with a brain injury she sustained after a fall in Afghanistan and she agreed, “I think it’s liberating.  This puts everybody on the same playing field.  I never thought with my ailment I could do something like this.  There’s tenacity and resilience out here.”

That tenacity paid off for one WTB company. When it was finally over, Creager-Lumpkins and the rest of the WTB’s Alpha Company pulled off the overall Commander’s Stakes win.


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