SFC Nouel Vargas, platoon sergeant, Bravo Company, Fort Carson WTB, practices his archery skills during an Adaptive Sports Experience clinic. The clinic was designed to “train the trainers”, who will pass those skills onto warriors in transition. Vargas also learned to operate the crossbow with his teeth, with an adaptive mitt and from a sitting position.
By Stacy Neumann, Fort Carson Medical Department Activity Public Affairs, Guest Blogger
SFC Jason Pichette gritted the Velcro strap in his jaw, using his teeth and neck to draw the crossbow’s strings back and pull it taut. The arrow flew forward, hitting the target’s lower third. The Soldiers behind him cheered.
“That was an accident,” the Fort Carson Warrior Transition Battalion (WTB) platoon sergeant admitted with a sheepish grin. “I didn’t mean to let it go then. I didn’t aim.”
Doesn’t sound like your typical day of Army physical training? Welcome to PT– Warrior Transition style.
The Army’s Warrior Transition Command (WTC) established the use of adaptive sports to aid Warriors in Transition on the road to recovery and physical fitness. It mandates Warrior Transition Units (WTUs) find a way to implement at least three days of organized adaptive sports. Individual units determine how they want to do that. In addition, the WTC provided Fort Carson funding for at least 37 pieces of equipment, ranging from specialized wheelchairs, to crossbows and shot puts, and TRX® suspension trainer equipment. This equipment, worth more than $70,000, is designed to encourage and enhance the adaptive sports experience.
From August 15 through 19, Pichette joined 47 cadre members from Western Region WTUs, Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) representatives and others for a five-day adaptive sports experience course designed to “train the trainers.” Participants teamed up with United State Paralympic athletes to learn adaptive sports techniques, in hopes of passing those skills onto Warriors in Transition.
Jeff Fabry assisted in archery instruction. After losing an arm and a leg in an All Terrain Vehicle (ATV) accident, he went on to win bronze medals in the Beijing and Athens Paralympic Games.
Fabry noted, “I know what they’re going to see and what challenges they face. You have to think out of the box.”
On Fort Carson, the WTB partners with four types of entities: the Colorado Springs-based LifeQuest Transitions, Colorado Springs Parks and Recreation, the United States Olympic Committee’s (USOC) Paralympic Military Program, and Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (MWR). The four WTB companies rotate four days a week at these facilities, tackling activities like cycling, archery, wheelchair basketball, aqua aerobics, kayaking, and sitting volleyball.
CPT Sarah Reynolds, WTB Assistant Operations officer, said, “They are exposed to each resource in hopes they can find out what fits them and benefits them the most. Then, we can continue to move them in that direction—perhaps get them into things like the Warrior Games or Ride2Recovery (a long distance cycling program).”
The first annual Warrior Games was held in May 2010 as a partnership between the Department of Defense and the U.S. Olympic Committee. The inaugural event brought about 200 injured, wounded and ill participants from the four military services to the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs as guests of the USOC Paralympic Military Program. Warrior athletes earn medals in each event and compete to be the “Ultimate Warrior” in a pentathlon format. The military service with the most points takes home the Chairman’s Cup.
Fort Carson plans to train at least 30 Soldiers to compete in the next Warrior Games.
SFC John Oliver, WTB Operations Noncommissioned Officer in Charge (NCOIC), added, “Even if they’re skeptical, they get in there and it’s a different experience. Competitive sports bring out the best in everybody. The ultimate goal is to change their frame of mind and get a positive attitude.”
In Fort Carson’s Garcia Physical Fitness Center, SSG James Mars’ colleagues were positive he wasn’t going to hit the target. His first arrow went wide, bouncing off the floor. Fabry showed the trainers some new techniques: how to shoot for Soldiers without a limb, how to shoot from a wheelchair, and how to hold a bow if your hand won’t work. After enduring some teasing for his first shot, Mars hit the target.
Alpha Company squad leader SSG Muriel Droke said cadre try to show the Soldiers that trying new things and sticking with it is key.
“I like to lift weights. But after learning this stuff, I can do other things and see a difference and the Soldiers see that. Lead by example,” Droke said. “There’s no such thing as you can’t do it. There is always an alternate way.”
Mars added, “Its one step to help with other obstacles in life. You just taught yourself this. Now why can’t you go to school? Why can’t you take a class?”
Local cadre said the Fort Carson WTB began their revised adaptive sports training at the company level this month. Each company will get two months worth of exposure to the sports. Cadre said the skills from this workshop will allow them to help further develop resilient Soldiers who can demonstrate and believe in the battalion’s new motto, “CAN DO.”