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.
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 Unit—Virginia
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 Unit—Virginia
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