Commander’s Drumbeat: What a Week for Army at Warrior Games

By BG Darryl A. Williams, WTC Commander
Wow.  I have never been more proud to be a Soldier in the United States Army than I am after watching the Army compete this week.  The Army Warrior Games team has turned in performances that make all of us proud to wear the uniform, and today was no exception.

I’ve had a blast all week and have made it a point to get to every event, and I want you to understand just how much excitement we’ve all experienced:

  • Monday: At the Opening Ceremony, the 220 athletes from all the services and the British armed forces marched across the Olympic Training Center with pride.  Their heads were up, shoulders back, all proud to wear the colors of their service branch.  Proud of what they’ve given our country, and what they’ve accomplished personally since they became wounded, ill, and injured.  Mrs. Michelle Obama and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, GEN Martin E. Dempsey, helped America see how important this event is, and how much wounded, ill, and injured warriors can accomplish.  AW2 Veteran Melissa Stockwell, who competed for the United States in the 2008 Paralympics in Beijing, lit the torch and reminded all the athletes competing–and all wounded, ill, and injured servicemembers throughout the country–how much is still possible even after injury.  GEN Lloyd J. Austin III, Vice Chief of Staff of the Army, and LTG Patricia Horoho, Army Surgeon General, both met with the Army team and attended the opening reception.
  • Tuesday: The Army women swept the podium at cycling and CPT Bill Longwell brought home gold for the men.  Seeing the elation on CPT Longwell’s face when he crossed the finish line and the Army spirit in Veterans Tanya Anderson, Margaux Vair, and 1LT Lacey Hamilton posing with their medals, I knew we were in for a great week.  And we made a strong start in sitting volleyball.  The Honorable John McHugh, Secretary of the Army, kicked off the cycling competition and presented medals to the cycling winners.
  • Wednesday: Army swept the silvers in all four archery categories.  SGT Fred Prince and Veteran Kinga Kiss-Johnson took home individual silvers, and we won the “team” silvers in both the recurve and compound categories.  And if that wasn’t enough, Coach Steve Coleman had promised the team that if they did well, they could shave his very bushy beard and hair.  He looks 20 years younger without it.  And later that night, Army was on top of our game in sitting volleyball and wheelchair basketball.  You should hear the crowd in the gym for both these sports – you can barely hear yourself think.  Between the cowbells and airhorns and cheering fans, the athletes from all the services know how much they’re supported.  And there was more – the PA system couldn’t get the British national anthem to play before their exhibition sitting volleyball game, so the team belted the lyrics with incredible sense of country.SMA Raymond F. Chandler III, Sergeant Major of the Army, visited with the Army team and cheered them on throughout Wednesday and Thursday.
  • Thursday: We brought home three medals in shooting: SGT Fred Prince and Veterans Justin Miller and Ben Trescott.  The Army Marksmanship Unit came out to help our athletes train, and they were instrumental in helping the Soldiers prepare.  Thursday evening, Army qualified for the gold medal game in both sitting volleyball and wheelchair basketball.  We won gold in wheelchair basketball last year and silver in sitting volleyball, and members of both teams told me that they were hungry to take home gold.
  • Friday: What an exciting day.  At the track, we sang the Army song over and over, as so many of our athletes won gold.  In his third Warrior Games appearance, Robbie Gaupp brought home two gold—in the 100m and 200m, and now he’s talking about qualifying for the Paralympic Games in London.  Kinga Kiss-Johnson, Anthony Pone, Monica Southall, and Juan Soto all won gold in different categories of shot put, and they all made it look easy.  Then Friday night, we dominated the Marines in sitting basketball and wheelchair basketball, bringing home gold in both team sports.  I could barely sit down during either game, I was cheering so hard and so excited for our teams.  GEN Raymond T. Odierno, Chief of Staff of the Army, was out at the track cheering on Army athletes and presented track and field medals.
  • Saturday: Army wrapped up the week with a strong showing in swimming.  There were some incredible performances from all the services.  WTC’s own LTC Danny Dudek, author of the new Comprehensive Transition Plan (CTP) policy and procedures, won gold in his race by more than a minute.

All in all, Army took home 62 medals: 18 gold, 19 silver, and 25 bronze.  Congratulations to all of the Army athletes on turning in a series of outstanding performances, and to all of the competitors here this week from all branches, including the members of the British armed forces who competed.

And to all wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers and Veterans who want to compete at the 2013 Warrior Games, we’ll let you know in the next few months about the training clinics and selection process.  I encourage you to continue to incorporate adaptive sports and reconditioning into your every day recovery and ongoing physical fitness routines, and I look forward to seeing the Army deliver another outstanding performance next year.

Using Mental Skills in Shooting Competition

By Lindsay Holtz, Guest Blogger and Performance Enhancement Specialist with the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness-Performance and Resilience Enhancement Program (CSF-PREP)

Army Veteran Justin Miller, a Galion, Ohio native, pauses before taking a final shot during the 2012 Warrior Games pistol shooting competition held at the U.S. Olympic Training Center, Colorado Springs, Colorado, May 3. Miller earned a bronze medal during the final pistol competition. (U.S. Army Photo by SSG Emily Anderson, WTC)

In competitive shooting, every step of one’s routine matters. Army Veteran Justin Miller spent the last few months working on the components of competitive shooting to create a consistent and accurate routine. Miller gave up all sport aspirations due to his injuries, but then he learned about the Warrior Games.

“I hadn’t heard anything about that before. And as they were talking I was thinking about my experience in shooting, swimming, and why not cycling,” Miller said. “It provided a lot of motivation.”

Shortly thereafter, Miller found himself on his way to attend the first WTC shooting clinic. It was at this first clinic I met Miller. I am a Performance Enhancement Specialist (PES) with the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness-Performance and Resilience Enhancement Program (CSF-PREP).

I introduced mental skills training with these athletes from day one. The training focused on creating routines and developing a consistent shot plan, including both physical and mental strategies. According to  SFC Janet Sokolowski, one of the team’s coaches from the Army Marksmanship Unit, “shooting is 90 percent mental. Once you get the fundamentals, it all becomes mental.”

Miller took this to heart and found that deliberately crafting and writing down his routine provided him with a personal point of reference to keep him consistent. In addition, Miller consistently set daily goals which provided him with something to think about while shooting during each practice.

I also worked with Miller on imagery techniques combined with biofeedback training. By using imagery, Miller is able to conduct a match in his head, and he found during practices that his shot groups have gotten closer. Miller is also able to think through and bring in all aspects of shooting without physically holding his weapon. The mental skills Miller incorporated in shooting have allowed him to be more automatic while in the midst of shooting.

While Miller has implemented a number of mental skills into his work in shooting, he has also found them to be valuable in his everyday life.

“One day, shortly after the shooting clinic in January, I was on my way to an appointment. My anxiety was spiking, and I began to think about what we discussed at the clinic,” Miller said. “I was able to use the skill of tactical breathing and it helped calm me down and gain greater control.”

Miller said at that moment there was a “pivotal change” for him. Using mental skills helped him get to a point that he was able to get out of the barracks and enjoy doing things again.

He has shown the importance of shooting through his dedication and passion both between and during practice. For him, shooting allows him to find enjoyment in a sport with similar intensity as rock climbing for which he has a strong passion but is no longer able to participate. From the his experiences  on his journey to the Warrior Games, Miller has found a passion for recreation therapy and plans to take what he  learned and help others, like him, find a passion for something in which they may have lost hope.

Army Sitting Volleyball Team to Compete for Gold at Warrior Games

Members of the U.S. Army sitting volleyball team faced the U.S. Air Force team during the 2012 Warrior Games at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado. (U.S. Army photo by CPL Kyle Wagoner, 43rd Public Affairs Detachment)

By CPL Kyle Wagoner, 43rd Public Affairs Detachment      
The U.S. Army sitting volleyball team was victorious in their match against the U.S. Air Force team during 2012 Warrior Games on May 2, 2012 at the U.S. Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, Colorado. Their victory placed them in the finals competing for gold against the Marines, on May 4.

The Army team of wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers and Veterans defeated the Air Force team after winning the first two sets in the match.

The score at the end of the first set was 25-23, with the second set ending in 25-21.

The Warrior Games, hosted by the U.S. Olympic Committee and supported by the U.S. Department of Defense, began April 30 and concludes May 6.

The Warrior Games allows athletes to demonstrate the dedication and determination of wounded, ill, and injured men and women of the armed forces by highlighting their abilities as athletes and warriors.

Army Soldiers and Veterans in the competition are competing against servicemembers from the Air Force, Coast Guard, Marines, Navy, and Special Operations Command for gold in seven sporting events and for the Chairman’s Cup, an award given to the top-performing service team.

The game against the Air Force was neck and neck, but through skill and teamwork the Army team prevailed.

“We came back from behind, overcame adversity, and won the game,” said retired SGT Robbie Gaupp, a player on the sitting volleyball team and native of Gatesville, Texas. “I knew we were going to play for nothing less than gold.”

After losing to the Marines in their first match earlier this week, coach David Vendt prepared his players for an inevitable rematch.

“We have to make sure that we’re mentally focused and that we continue to play the game we know how to play. And play it the Army way,” Vendt said. “We’re going to take it tomorrow night.”

Army Dominates Marines In WheelChair Basketball Rematch

Retired Army CPL Perry Price III, of Wilmington, Del., races down the basketball court alongside retired Army SPC Juan Soto, a San Antonio, Texas, native, at a wheelchair basketball game against the Marines during the 2012 Warrior Games at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo. on May 3. The Army defeated the Marines 45-27. (Photo by Army SGT Jerry Griffis, 43rd Public Affairs Detachment)

By SGT Jerry Griffis, 43rd Public Affairs Detachment
Two rivals met on the court again May 3, 2012, for a second night of wheelchair basketball.  The Warrior Games continued with the Army team facing off against the Marines for a chance at the gold medal.  Fans cheered, and anticipation was high as the game began with retired Army CPL Perry Price III, a Wilmington, Del. native, scoring the first two points of the game.

The Warrior Games is an annual competition between wounded, injured, and ill service members from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and SOCOM.  The games feature a variety of sporting events, including cycling, shooting, wheelchair basketball, archery, track and field, swimming, and sitting volleyball.

The game was not without bumps and bruises.  At one point, retired Army SSG Paul Roberts, of Newport News, Va., scored two points right before crashing into a padded goal support.  The play was highly contested between the two teams, and after falling out of his chair, Roberts walked off the court unassisted.

Overall the Army team dominated the game with a final score of 45-27.

“We were going to come out like we would against anybody, with a lot of intensity, and a lot of focus and try to have a little patience on offense and get the shots that we wanted,” said Doug Varner, the Army wheelchair basketball coach. “We have one game left and it will be the gold medal.  We will make a few tweaks defensively.  The Marines played really well.

“The team played great. The team played as a team all the way through, said Army Veteran, Damion Peyton, of Washington, D.C. “I’m not even worried about us getting that gold.”

Army Takes Another Win in Sitting Volleyball

The U.S. Army and British Armed Forces sitting volleyball teams pose for a photo after an exhibition match for the 2012 Warrior Games on May 2, at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo. The British team was invited to participate in the Warrior Games this year as a special guest. (Photo by Army SGT Jerry Griffis, 43rd Public Affairs Detachment)

By Sgt. Jerry Griffis, 43rd Public Affairs Detachment

The U.S. Army sitting volleyball team won their third match of the 2012 Warrior Games on May 2, and also bested the British Armed Forces team in an exhibition match.

During the match between the Army and SOCOM, the Army dominated the first set with a score of 25-16.  The second set was such an easy win, but the Army came out victorious in the end with a score of 26-24.

It was a night of camaraderie and friendship as the Army played a match against the British Armed Forces team who were invited to this year’s Warrior Games as special guests.  The Army won the first set 25-17.  Showing they were not to be beaten easily, the British team came around to score a victory in the second set, 25-12.  The match continued into a third set to break the tie, with the Army winning the set 15-10.

After the exhibition game, the U.S. Army and the British team came together to pose for photographs and congratulate one another on a game well played.

Mixed Victory for Army Sitting Volleyball

Army CPT David Vendt, U.S. Army sitting volleyball coach, pulls his team together to discuss strategy during the first set against the U.S. Navy at the 2012 Warrior Games on May 1, 2012 in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

By SGT Jerry Griffis, 43rd Public Affairs Detachment
The U.S. Army sitting volleyball team played their first matches of the third annual Warrior Games on May 1, 2012.  It was a night of mixed emotions as the U.S. Army lost the first two sets against the Marines and won the first two sets against the Navy/Coast Guard team.

The Warrior Games is an annual competition between wounded, ill, and injured servicemembers from the Air Force, Army, Marines, Navy, and Special Operations Command (SOCOM).  The competition features a variety of adaptive sports including archery, cycling, shooting, sitting volleyball, track and field, and wheelchair basketball.

During the first match, the Marines defeated the Army 25-18, and then 27-18.  During the second set of the match, the competition was fierce as the Army fought to even the score. Eventually the Marines were able to come out on top, pushing the games to the next round.

In the second match, the Army faced off against the Navy/Coast Guard team. The Army seemed warmed up and ready as they cleared the path to victory in both sets. The Army defeated Navy/Coast Guard 25-22, and then 25-18.

Army sitting volleyball coach, CPT David Vendt, said there were some initial hiccups early in the night, but they won’t stop his team’s drive to win the gold.

“The Army team played the Army way,” said Vendt.  “We will continue to march.”

Army Cycling Team Wins Big at 2012 Warrior Games

CPT William Longwell crosses the finish line and takes the gold medal in the 2012 Warrior Games Men’s 10k hand cycle event at the U.S. Air Force Academy May 01, 2012. (Photo by Army SGT Jennifer Spradlin, 43rd Public Affairs Detachment)

By SGT Jennifer Spradlin, 43rd Public Affairs Detachment
After months of intensive training, an extremely competitive selection process, one week of on-site practices, and immeasurable amounts of friendly trash talk, it was finally time for the athletes of the 2012 Warrior Games Army cycling team to shut up, cycle, and win.

And that’s just what they did. The Army went on to win six individual medals on the hilly U.S. Air Force Academy course—two gold, one  silver, and three bronze—and tie the Marine Corps after the first event of the competition.

CPT William Longwell started the Army off the strong by finishing first in the men’s 10k hand cycle event with a blistering time of 20 minutes, 54 seconds. Veteran Anthony Robinson also performed well in a fast race and took the bronze in the same event.

“It felt great to cross the finish line. I knew I was in first, and I knew I was the first medal for the Army,” said Longwell. “I definitely got tired during the race. I knew I had a 300m lead on everybody, and so I took it a little bit easier up the last big hill, but then I looked over my shoulder and saw the Marine back there and downshifted a little bit more and kept going. I just kept thinking to myself, ‘keep going, keep truckin’.”

Longwell attributed his success to the amount of training and preparation he underwent prior to the games. He said he was biking on average between 40 and 60 miles a week. Longwell, a Batavia, Ill. native, began cycling in January when a combat injury had sidelined his ability to do other cardiovascular workouts, and soon found himself hooked.

“I knew I was going to win. I just trained too hard not to win, but more so than anything, I was trying to beat my own personal time I set for myself,” said Longwell, who encouraged other wounded, ill, and injured servicemembers to get outside, have fun, and try out the cycling community.

Next off the race line were the female bicycle events.  Not to be outdone by their male counterparts, the women swept the medal stand.  Army Veteran Tanya Anderson, a full-time cycling coach for the Marine Corps at the Wounded Warrior Battalion-East at Camp Lejuene, claimed gold with a time of 18 minutes, 28 seconds. The silver medal went to Veteran Margaux Vair, and the bronze went to 1LT Lacey Hamilton.

“I am proud of the entire female squad,” said Anderson a Laguna Beach, Calif., native. “We came and swept the whole field like we had planned.”

Despite working closely with the Marine Corps, Anderson said making the Army team and being around other Soldiers felt like coming home, and winning the medal helped cement her Warrior Games experience.

“It was such an honor to go out there and represent the Army and win the gold,” said Anderson.

The final races, the Men’s 30k bicycle open and the 30k physical disability, were the most competitive of the day, each event saw several lead changes and cyclists sprinting to the finish line to place. SSG John Masters emerged the lone medalist for the Army in the two categories, finishing just ahead of another Army bicyclist for the bronze in the 30k physical disability.

The Warrior Games bring together wounded, ill, and injured servicemembers in a sporting competition hosted by the U.S. Olympic Committee. Competition continues throughout the week with archery, shooting, sitting volleyball, swimming, wheelchair basketball, and track and field.

To learn more about the Warrior Games or the Army athletes, visit the Warrior Transition Command at

2012 Warrior Games Opening Ceremony Honors Spirit of Athletes

Mrs. Michelle Obama shares a moment with the 2012 Warrior Games’ torch bearers, British Royal Marine Captain Simon Maxwell and retired Army 1LT Melissa Stockwell, on April 30, at the Olympic Training Center. (Photo by U.S. Army SSG Tracy J. Smith)

By SSG Tracy J. Smith, Fort Stewart Warrior Transition Unit
Mrs. Michelle Obama led the opening ceremony for the third annual Warrior Games at the U.S. Olympic Training Center on April 30.

The Warrior Games is comprised of seven sports; archery, cycling, sitting volleyball, shooting, swimming, track and field, and wheelchair basketball. More than 200 wounded, ill, or injured servicemembers from each branch of service and the U.S. Special Operations Command are competing. The games began with the opening ceremony and continue until May 5.

The ceremony celebrated the resilience of our nation’s wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers,  active duty, reservists, guardsmen, and Veterans  from all branches of military service. This year for the first time, our British allies brought 20-members to compete in exhibition games.

Mrs. Obama and Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, GEN Martin E. Dempsey, applauded the competitors for their courage and for being inspirations.

“Every competitor here has faced adversity that most of us can never imagine,” Mrs. Obama said. “No matter how seriously you are injured, no matter what obstacles or setbacks you face, you just keep moving forward.”

Dempsey commended the service men and women for not succumbing to perceived disabilities.

“For me, these games embody the enduring resilience of our profession,” said Dempsey. “Your commitment to teamwork, and dedication to persevere at these games are the very same qualities that led you to serve our nation. Those qualities don’t go away.”

Retired Army 1LT and 2006 Beijing Paralympian, Melissa Stockwell, gives a celebratory fist pump after lighting the cauldron opening the 2012 Warrior Games at the Olympic Games Center.

Captain Simon Maxwell of the British Royal Marines and retired Army 1LT Melissa Stockwell shared the honor as torchbearers for the opening ceremony.  She was the first female Soldier to lose a limb in Iraq. Stockwell was awarded a Bronze Star and Purple Heart for the loss of her leg in 2004 by an insurgent’s bomb.  Maxwell was deployed to Helmand Province in Afghanistan in April 2011 where he served as a troop commander with Company L. He was wounded in August 2011, while on patrol resulting in the loss of his left leg below the knee.

Both adamantly profess finding a renewed sense of purpose because of their experiences. Stockwell uncovered her Olympian spirit during her rehabilitation at Walter Reed and represented her country in a different uniform during the 2008 Beijing Paralympics swim competition.

Other key speakers on hand to open the ceremony were Scott Blackmun, the U.S. Olympic Committee CEO, and Robin Lineberger, the Deloitte Federal Systems CEO.

The ceremony ended with the playing of each service song and a VIP reception for the athletes and Family members at the Olympic Training Center.

All of the athletic events are being held at the U.S. Air Force Academy, with the exception of shooting, which will take place at the training center.

Turning Disability into Ability at the Warrior Games

By Caitlin McCarrie, WTC STRATCOM
This is my first time at the Warrior Games, and I am taking in this experience with wide eyes and enthusiasm. The Opening Ceremony at the U.S Olympic Training Center kicked off the week’s events. Before the ceremony, the athletes, coaches, and staff gathered and calmed their nerves in preparation for the week ahead.

As I looked around the room, I saw the athletes get in their zone. U.S. Army archery coach Steven Coleman looked for his team and pointed out that each competitor focuses their energy in different ways, whether it be listening to their iPod, playing cards with teammates, or talking with their coach. I could feel their energy, and it was positively invigorating.

We made our way to the Opening Ceremony, and watching the competitors from all service branches make their way through the crowd was truly inspiring. Amid the friendly banter between the services there was an overarching sense of pride and gratitude. Soldiers of all backgrounds walked the same walk.  I’ve heard the phrase, “overcoming disability with ability” before, but it wasn’t until that moment when I saw these men and women walking toward the ceremony together that I really understood the power of those words.

One of the most exciting parts for me was listening to the VIP speakers, such as Mrs. Michelle Obama and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Army GEN Martin Dempsey. Watching these prominent men and women address the sea of wounded, ill, and injured servicemembers and Family members I felt a deep sense of gratefulness and respect. That sentiment swept over the crowd, and at that moment the crowd shared a sense of unity that I’ve never experienced before.

Mrs. Obama praised the athletes, “I get to see your strength and determination up close, and you tell me you’re not just going to walk again, but you’re going to run, and you’re going to run marathons.”

After the opening remarks, I joined the Army athletes, coaches, and staff for some words of inspiration for the week ahead. LTG Patricia Horoho, the Army Surgeon General, had some special words of encouragement for the room. “You have been through the toughest situations, and now you have to focus mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. You have already shown you are capable of turning disability into ability, and this is one more step forward.” I watched as the athletes listened attentively, and I could feel their intensity and excitement.

The passion and determination in the eyes of these athletes is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. Their hard work and dedication to training, whether it was in the WTC’s adaptive sports clinics throughout the year or on their own is about to pay off, and I’m excited to see the Army bring home the gold. LTG Horoho gave one last note which sums up the Army’s presence at the Warrior Games. “It’s the warriors’ ethos that will bond this team to victory.”

U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit Trains Army Warrior Games Athletes

By SSG Emily Anderson, WTC STRATCOM

SFC Tom Rose, assigned to the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit, pictured left, teaches AW2 Veteran Justin Miller additional pistol techniques. Miller is competing in the Warrior Games shooting event on May 3.

The Army Warrior Games shooting team is capitalizing on its extra advantage — the United States Army Marksmanship Unit (USAMU).

 “I think a lot of the athletes are going to do very well,” said SFC Janet Sokolowski, the USAMU platoon sergeant for the cross-functional pistol. “The training clinics they went to before the games were really helpful.”

 The USAMU is a world-class shooting team composed of Soldiers. They are considered the best of the best and have gained worldwide respect by winning hundreds of individual and team competitions, including World Championships and Olympic medals.

 “We’ve helped the Army shooting team every year for Warrior Games,” Sokolowski said. “It takes a lot of skill, but several of the athletes are open to learning.”

 “Matter of fact the team we have here has lots of experience and love doing this,” she said about the other members who are putting their experience to helping the Army Warrior Games shooting team to bring home gold.

 The Warrior Games shooting competition consists of athletes accurately using either a pistol or rifle to fire a series of shots at a stationary target during a timed session.

 “I’m learning a lot,” said AW2 Veteran Justin Miller. “With the help of CPL Rawlings (an USAMU Soldier) and the techniques he taught me about the rifle helped me to dial in and take better aim.”

 “This training has been very productive,” Miller said. “I’m learning holding drills for the pistol which helps to stabilize the muscles.”

 Shooting maybe the USAMU main area of expertise, but competing is not their only skill. These Soldiers assist in technical development of military small arms equipment and ammunition. They translate their competitive marksmanship skills into useful combat marksmanship.

 “Once you’ve conditioned yourself to shooting, it becomes 90% mental,” Sokolowski said. “We’re extremely goal oriented.”

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