Mental Resilience Helps Achieve Success

By Kaitlyn Donohoe, CSF-PREP Performance Enhancement Specialist

Comprehensive Soldier Fitness-Performance and Resilience Enhancement Program (CSF-PREP) performance specialist Kaitlyn Donohoe, works with Army track and field athletes at the 2011 Warrior Games.

The Comprehensive Soldier Fitness-Performance and Resilience Enhancement Program (CSF-PREP) educates and trains individuals on the behavioral skills that underlie human performance excellence. The program is designed to enhance personal and professional performances by developing the full potential of Soldiers, Family members, and Army Civilians. CSF-PREP accomplishes this by using a systematic process to teach and train the behavioral skills essential to the pursuit of personal strength, professional excellence, and the Warrior Ethos.

CSF-PREP education and training focuses on bridging the gap between the rehabilitation process and the Soldier’s transition back into the Army or civilian life by providing the knowledge and skills to craft their future. CSF-PREP teaches Soldiers the critical underlying skills needed to take ownership and control of their recovery, to focus on their abilities versus disabilities, and to provide the tools to help enhance their mindset so that they have a sense of purpose and are effectively motivated about their future.

In elite competition, such as the Warrior Games that took place last month, all athletes train to enhance their physical skills; what separates medal winners from the rest is mental strength. CSF-PREP trains the mental strength of individuals. In working with the Warrior Games athletes, we worked with individual athletes and teams to teach them the skills of our education model and the ways to apply them to their athletic performances. Each Soldier and Veteran who participated in the Warrior Games completed at least 16 hours of classroom education to learn and develop a foundational knowledge of the skills we utilize.

For the Warrior Games, I had the privilege to work with the Army track and field team. In addition to the general CSF-PREP training, I conducted another five hours of applied group training that was tailored to track and field events and team building. As a part of this training, each athlete created a mental performance plan for each event during individual or small group sessions.

With an individual sport like track and field, Soldiers athletes need to focus on the right thing and manage their nerves and energy to have optimal performance. For example, I worked with a Soldier for several weeks before the Warrior Games began. He was excited to have the opportunity to compete again, as he had not played sports competitively since high school, but was worried about how he would perform in such a highly visible event.

This sense of discouragement can negatively influence one’s performance. Before the Games, I discussed with the Soldier about the influence of a positive attitude on performance and how focused attention and energy on factors within one’s control has power over one’s performance. We also worked to create tangible goals for competition and plans for how to achieve them and help achieve a greater sense of control.

When we first arrived at the Warrior Games training camp, the Soldier had a more effective attitude toward his performance. Throughout the training camp, we finalized his individualized mental training plan to focus on imagery, pre-performance routines, refocus techniques, and recovery techniques. We worked to maintain focus amidst distractions and set the conditions for success, regardless of the circumstances that may try to get in the way of optimal performance. At the Warrior Games, this Soldier effectively applied the mental skills we discussed to his physical skills and techniques and earned a silver medal for the Army team.

The journey to obtain mental strength for life is a continuous process and is unique to every individual. To share in this collective journey of personal growth with the warrior athletes, cadre, coaches, medical staff and other CSF-PREP performance specialists was a priceless and tremendously gratifying experience. I can honestly say I have the best job, because I had the honor to work with the men and women who gave so much to defend our nation and our freedom.

Editor’s Note: Kaitlyn Donohoe has a background in Sport Performance Psychology and has a Master of Science from Miami University of Ohio in Sport Psychology. She has several years of experience working with athletes and individuals to enhance performance through mental skills training.

Retired SFC Matthew Netzel Awarded Purple Heart

By Deana Perry, AW2 Advocate

Retired SFC Matthew Netzel holds his two-year-old daughter, Abigail, while speaking to the audience at his Purple Heart Ceremony.

When retired SFC Mattew Netzel first asked for my help with his Purple Heart, I told him, “Sure, no problem, we can do that.” Then the details came. We first tracked down his treating physician for medical documentation on his injuries sustained in Afghanistan in 2006—two thousand six! Quietly, I was thinking, oh boy, how do I do that? Can I do that? But I wasn’t about to let Netzel know that I was uncertain of my success. If I told him I would only try, then I might be tempted to only try. In my mind, he was holding me accountable to follow through. He was going to get his Purple Heart. And, that required more than just a nice try.

Last month, my husband, my son, and I walked down the sidewalk outside the city hall building toward the Purple Heart Memorial in Harker Heights, TX. It was drizzling and a bit humid as we approached the crowd. I saw Netzel standing near the memorial, surrounded by his Family and friends. It was there where he received his Purple Heart during a ceremony hosted by the Military Order of the Purple Heart Central Texas Chapter #1876. I watched and swelled with pride and satisfaction as retired MG Stewart Meyer pinned the Purple Heart to Netzel’s chest and said the Purple Heart was a small token of appreciation for the sacrifices he made for his country. When Netzel spoke, with his daughter in his arms, he thanked the crowd and said, “It makes you reflect on the ones that aren’t able to be here.”

So, I did leave a lot out of this story, but the how doesn’t seem as imporatant as the who and why. Netzel is an inspiration to me, and it was a priviledge to be a part of the efforts that ensured he received recognition for his sacrifices while defending our nation. Almost every time we talk, he thanks me for helping him, but I’m not the one who is owed thanks. It is an honor to serve as his AW2 Advocate. Thank you, Matt!

Editor’s Note: SFC Matthew Netzel was injured in November 2006 when his 11-man patrol was ambushed by as many as 60 Taliban fighters. Four rocket-propelled grenades detonated next to Netzel and two other Soldiers. The blast threw Netzel off a 10-foot embankment onto a rockbed.

A Reflection on Warrior Games

By SFC Ronald Black, Warrior Games Track and Field Team Squad Leader

Warrior Games track and field athletes and their event squad leader (from left to right) SGT Robbie Gaupp, squad leader SFC Ronald Black, SPC Stuart Lancaster, and CPL Quintarious Almon.

Warrior Games is a once in a lifetime experience. I was blessed to be able to attend the Games for a second year to cheer on the Army team. It was a privilege to be among wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers and Veterans who gave significant sacrifices for our freedom. It was a proud feeling.

Being part of Warrior Games was exciting, especially for track and field, because I saw the competiveness in each Soldier when they were training and challenging each other. The motivation and the drive to push each other and themselves to the limit was so amazing to watch. Knowing I had a part in helping make this a reality for our wounded warriors was awesome.

Throughout the training week and the competition, I was at a loss for words. Seeing a few familiar faces from last year and hearing the guys talk about how they were going to beat the Marines and take it all was so great. I could feel the excitement. Knowing our wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers and Veterans haven’t lost the will to compete and haven’t let their disability hold them back was astonishing.

I also noticed how everyone seemed to pick a battle buddy. This person became someone they could go to for their power or spiritual support.

As the battle rhythm began to kick in, the coaches helped the competitors become more focused, and the preparation from Kaitlyn Donohoe, the track and field performance enhancement specialist, and associated specialists was awesome. They pulled the team together when the athletes seemed to get out of sync and helped them stay focused.

In the final days of training it was like night and day. Our team was ready. I could see the seriousness on their faces and was just amazed. I was, and still am, proud to be a part of this team.

 

First Comes Training, Then Comes Competition

By LTC Jeanette Griffin, WTC Stratcom

SGT Ben Thomas after competing in the 100- and 200-meter wheelchair competition during the 2011 Warrior Games.

The sweat from the Soldier’s brow dripped down his forehead as he prepared for his turn at the start line. He knew he was ready. He would use the butterflies and nervousness to drive himself to the finish line.

SGT Benjamin Thomas, the only Army track and field 100-meter and 200-meter wheelchair competitor, was medically discharged from the Army in December 2006, after having his right knee reconstructed due to a basketball injury. Then in 2008, Thomas was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

Although he slowly lost his mobility and began using a wheelchair, he did not let that stop his determination to compete in the 2011 Warrior Games.

“I decided to compete because I told myself that I can, plus I wanted to show others that I can still do the things I used to do.” Thomas said.

A week before the competition, 24 Soldiers trained to compete in the track and field events at the 2011 Warrior Games. Retired Army LTC Sue Bozgoz, the Army team’s track and field coach, was crucial to training this team for success.

“For many of my track and field athletes, these Games have become a part of their life, as well as mine,” Bozgoz said. “I can tell from talking with them that everything from their head to their soul has been filled with the Warrior Games spirit.”

Bozgoz, who has 54 marathons under her belt, knows plenty about coaching. Although she no longer runs marathons due to injuries sustained from a car accident, she trains military and civilian personnel and coaches international runners throughout the year.

“I have been here seven days watching our warriors train with passion and guts,” Bozgoz said before the track and field competition, held on the first day of the Warrior Games. “Whether they were running on the track or throwing the shot put in the field, they were training as a team with focus and drive.”

“In my mind, the 2011 Warrior Games is filled with champions with big hearts and solid drive,” she added. “Whether our warriors come in first, second, third or last, that’s part of the game, and we are all winners.”

Before arriving at Warrior Games, Thomas trained three days per week for one and a half hours per day. Just before the competition, he spent some time in Colorado Springs perfecting his form and technique, as well as adjusting to the altitude.

“My drive consists of my Family and showing others and myself that it can be done,” Thomas stated.

Thomas sees the Warrior Games as a stepping stone towards doing his best and believes in a positive attitude no matter what. His goal is to remain healthy. Currently, his multiple sclerosis is in remission.

“Don’t say ‘can’t’ because you put a handicap on yourself,” Thomas said. “Never say ‘never’ because that shows you are quitting.”

Helping Thomas and other competitors is Millie Daniels, a 10-year high school track and field coach from Bedford, VA. She was selected as one of the assistant coaches for the Warrior Games and helped the field participants train for their event. “Helping to train these athletes has been an opportunity of a lifetime,” Daniels said. “I am glad I was invited to assist with the track and field events.”

After the Warrior Games, many of the track and field athletes and coaches will continue to add to their track and field repertoire.

“I plan to continue coaching and training a group of world class elite international runners,” Bozgoz said. “I have also accepted the challenge to train the first-ever Warrior Transition Command team as they prepare for this year’s 2011 Army Ten-Miler.”

Now that the Warrior Games are over and the winners announced, the journey home proved to be the final highlight because the world now recognizes these warriors as not just wounded, but as remarkable athletes.

The Army brought home 15 medals in track and field: 2 gold, 4 silver, and 9 bronze.

Home of the Brave

By BG Darryl A. Williams, WTC Commander

Several times last week, Soldiers and Veterans competing at the 2011 Warrior Games told me, “I am doing this for the ones that did not make it home. I am doing what they can no longer do.”

It’s not easy to lose a teammate or a loved one—even when done in sacrifice to a greater cause.  For those of us who have served and lost a battle buddy, that loss is a permanent shadow on all we do. Not necessarily a darkness, but rather a new layer to who we are. We carry them with us—some quietly, some with an arm band, and some through stretch goals. When one sergeant first class competed for the title of Ultimate Champion, I knew it was not just his shadow from the sun on the track field, but several others who died in combat which he now carries with him.

As I listened to stories about the fallen and watched those acting in memorial to them at Warrior Games, I could not help but think of the quote by Elmer Davis, a news reporter and Director of the US Office of War Information during World War II: “This nation will remain the land of the free only so long as it is the home of the brave.”

As we all enjoy a long Memorial Day weekend, I hope we each take a few minutes to honor the brave heroes of our country, and thank their loved loves.

Second Class of AW2 Soldiers and Veterans Graduate from Kansas University

By Jim Merrill, AW2 Advocate

The month of May saw many college graduations and ceremonies across the country, as well as events commemorating the armed forces. Along with COL Greg Gadson, AW2 Director, I had the pleasure of attending a special graduation and Warrior Appreciation Rally.

The master’s hooding ceremony for the second class of graduates of the AW2 Education Initiative was at the University of Kansas (KU), Lawrence, KS. These new graduates, one AW2 Soldier and five AW2 Veterans, were the second group selected to take part in an innovative cooperative program between the Department of the Army (DA) and KU. Soldiers that possessed bachelor’s degrees could attend KU as either COAD (Continuation on Active Duty) Soldiers or as paid DA civilians, with all fees paid, to obtain their master’s degrees. In return, they become instructors at the Command and General Staff College (C&GS) at Fort Leavenworth, or will be employed in some other capacity within the Army.

Congratulations to the Soldier and Veterans who completed the AW2 Education Initiative program this year. Their names, degrees, and next assignments are:

  • Retired SGT Nathan Dehnke, Master in Political Science, G-1 Headquarters, DA, Washington, DC
  • Retired CPT John Gelineau, Master in Global and International Studies, Sustainment Center of Excellence, Fort Lee, VA
  • 1LT Jason Gladney, Master in History, C&GS, Fort Leavenworth, KS
  • Retired SPC Michael Hogg, Master in History, C&GS, Fort Leavenworth, KS
  • Retired SGT Tom Wiggins, Master in Curriculum and Instruction, School for Advanced Leadership and Tactics, Fort Leavenworth, KS

Gadson and I attended both the hooding ceremony and a reception that followed. My life has changed by meeting Soldiers such as these and others assigned to AW2. Speaking as a proud and patriotic American, thank you, gentlemen, for what you have done, your pain, suffering, and sacrifices for this country, and the continuing service you are providing.

First Annual Warrior Appreciation Rally

Despite predictions of rain and storms for Kansas City, Gadson and I also attended the 1st Annual Warrior Appreciation Rally held in Kansas City. Many AW2 Soldiers, wounded servicemembers, Veterans from different conflicts, active duty Soldiers from nearby Fort Leavenworth and Veterans in general attended the rally organized by community organizations, with events benefiting wounded warriors. AW2 Veterans Mike Davis, Alan Norton, and Scott Stevenson had the difficult task of being judges for a cover girl and bikini contest. The Kansas City Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Hospital also supported the event with the Mobile Veteran’s Outreach vehicle, as well at the Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation Enduring Freedom Nurse Case Manager and two of the VA’s psychiatrists donating their time. VA staff made a determined effort to reach out to all Veterans and explain benefits and assistance available to them. We, along with the rally participants, enjoyed the fun filled day.

And the Winner is…

By SSG Emily Anderson, WTC Stratcom

During the 2011 Warrior Games closing ceremony, the color guard entered the ceremony and proudly held the flags of the military branches during the playing of the national anthem.

The 2011 Warrior Games came to a close May 21 at the Air Force Academy with the Marines being presented with the Chairman’s Cup. Although the Army team did not win the official, coveted cup, they did a great job of capturing 41 medals throughout the competition.

The closing ceremony included Army Chief of Staff GEN Martin Dempsey speaking to the athletes and praising them for their efforts during the game, throughout recovery and training, and in overcoming their disabilities to become an inspiration.

“Every one of you is an inspiration,” Dempsey said. “You all incorporate the Army’s warrior ethos of I will never quit. I will never accept defeat. I will never leave a fallen comrade.”

The Army’s athletes were strong contenders, and gave the Marines, Air Force, combined Navy-Coast Guard Team, and the Special Operations Team tough competition.

Regardless of event, injury or illness, the Army athletes gave it their own, never quit, and completed the games with the following final medal count:

Gold: 9

Silver: 13

Bronze: 19

Although the Army may not have won the Chairman’s Cup, they are all winners and I congratulate all of the medal winners and participants. Your hard work and training made the 2011 Warrior Games a great success.

 

TGIT!—Thank Goodness it’s Thursday Meditation Hour

By Patricia Sands, WTC Stratcom

Editor’s Note: Warriors at Ease is a participant in the AW2 Community Support Network.

Thank Goodness it’s Thursday Meditation Hour is launching for Army Wounded Warrior Program (AW2) spouses and caregivers.

This teleconference meditation hour is a regularly scheduled event that assists spouses and caregivers to relieve stress and to find new coping skills. The teleconference call is scheduled for the last Thursday of every month and will be first held tomorrow, Thursday, May 26, at 1:00 p.m. EDT.

Robin Carnes, founder of AW2 Community Support Network Member Warriors at Ease, will lead the meditation using iRest techniques. These easy-to-learn meditation techniques are taught by Carnes at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and have proven to be successful. For example, after using these techniques, her students report the ability to sleep more soundly, a decrease in pain, and a general increase in peace of mind in daily life.

If you are an AW2 spouse or caregiver who would benefit from stress reduction, please email the AW2 Community Support Network to reserve your spot for tomorrow’s call at AW2communitysupportnetwork@conus.army.mil.

 

It Feels Right

By Jim Wenzel, WTC Stratcom

GEN Martin Dempsey, Chief of Staff of the Army, addresses the athletes at the 2011 Warrior Games Awards Ceremony.

The 37th Chief of Staff of the Army GEN Martin Dempsey spoke Saturday night at the Air Force Academy’s Clune Arena at the 2011 Warrior Games Awards Ceremony. His message resonated with the athletes and other servicemembers as well as the public attending the ceremony as he shared the words: “It feels right.”

Dempsey highlighted many areas that capture the “rightness” of the event and what it means to the military community. It feels right to have wounded, ill, and injured athletes come together to compete at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. It feels right that “Corporate America” sponsors like Deloitte, non-profits like the United Service Organizations, and government organizations like the city of Colorado Springs contributed both financially and through the organization of volunteers to help make the competition happen.

Sharing the past two weeks with the Soldiers and Veterans who competed at the Warrior Games, I wholeheartedly agree with the general. It is right to gather these wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers and Veterans together in a spirit of competition and the brotherhood and sisterhood of arms. All of the Soldiers and Veterans I had the pleasure of speaking with, expressed their gratitude for the opportunity to participate. They also explained to me the honor and humility they felt in the presence of other warrior athletes who shared in their experience.

Although each athlete has his or her own unique story, there are common themes interwoven between all of them. The beginning of each story may be uniformly tragic, but these stories unfold and fill with hope and positive circumstances as these Soldiers and Veterans learn to reshape their lives. Their minds and bodies changed, but the will that drives them to succeed, overcome, and persevere remains strong.

These athletes are, as Dempsey concluded in his remarks, “all heroes.” Having gotten to know several of the athletes over the past two weeks, I can safely conclude that the sound of this word is unusual and uncomfortable to most of them. In fact, I know that most of them would simply shrug it off and say they were only doing their job.

This discomfort and denial is as right as the Warrior Games itself. Heroes don’t take the title for themselves, it is given to them by those who watch and judge their actions. As much as they would like to cover their amazing performances, their indomitable will, and the strength of their character with a job description, no one in the Clune Arena was buying it.

We saw them in action and judged for ourselves. The courage, fortitude, and esprit de corps on display left no doubt that we were in the presence of heroes. As representatives of all wounded, ill, and injured servicemembers we could not have asked for better than those who made the journey to Colorado Springs this year.

As the torch was extinguished over the 2011 Warrior Games, I know many of the wounded, ill, and injured servicemembers left the arena plotting their next move. Some will return next year for the 2012 Warrior Games, perhaps others will try for a spot on the United States Paralympic team, and many will apply their drive to succeed to some other worthy goal in their lives.

Wherever they go and whatever they do, I know the memory of these Warrior Games will remain with them and with us as a shining example of the power of the human spirit to overcome adversity. Congratulations to all the Soldiers and Veterans who participated and represented the Army and I hope to see you again next year.

 

I’m not a Hero—I’m a Soldier

By Sarah Greer, WTC Stratcom

On Saturday, AW2 Soldier CPT Ivan Castro appeared on MSNBC to discuss the Warrior Games and his commitment to long distance running. He competed for the Special Ops team on the ground this week at Warrior Games.

“I’m not a hero,” CPT Castro, who is blind, told the host, Dylan Ratigan. “I’m just a Soldier doing his job…I’m a leader and an officer, and a Soldier.”

When asked about what makes the Warrior Games special, he explained, “If you were to come out here, you’d see that these warriors never quit. We didn’t do it on the field of battle, and we won’t do it here. Regardless of whether we’re injured, we’re still human beings,” he added. “We can continue to serve and show the world what we’re made of. “

CPT Castro continues to serve on active duty at Fort Bragg. “I have a great command that supports me and is willing to employ me to fulfill my abilities,” said Castro.

Watch the full nine-minute interview online at MSNBC.com.

 

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