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.

 

AW2 Veteran’s Rehabilitation Is Definitely “On Par”

By Chris Lewandowski, AW2 Advocate

To say it has been a busy couple of weeks for AW2 Veteran retired CPL Chad Pfeifer, would be an understatement. One week after winning the 2011 National Amputee Golf Championship, Pfeifer made his way to Irving, Texas, where he won the Inaugural Bush Center Warrior Open. The Warrior Open was sponsored by the George W. Bush Presidential Center and is part of the center’s Military Service Initiative, a program designed to showcase the importance of sports in the rehabilitation of wounded, ill, and injured servicemembers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

AW2 Veteran Chad Pfeifer received the Inaugural Bush Center Warrior Open championship trophy from former President George W. Bush.

Pfeifer competed against 20wounded warriors, ultimately winning the 36-hole event by nine strokes. Seven of the 20 wounded warriors participating were graduates of the Salute Military Golf Association’s program coached by PGA professional Jim Estes. After receiving the championship trophy from the former president, Pfeifer dedicated his win to “all of our brothers and sisters who paid the ultimate sacrifice.”

Pfeifer suffered an above the knee amputation of his left leg after the vehicle he was in rolled over a pressure-plate- activated improvised explosive device (IED) outside Baghdad, Iraq, in April 2007. After more than a year in recovery, Pfeifer took up golf as a form of physical therapy.  While attached to the Warrior Transition Unit (WTU) at Fort Sam Houston, Pfeifer was allowed to hit balls and golf for free. “I just fell in love with it,” says Pfeifer.

AW2 Veteran Chad Pfeifer wins the 2011 Inaugural Bush Center Warrior Open in Irving, TX.

Three years after his injury, he finished fourth in the 2010 National Amputee Golf Championship, and immediately set a new goal. “My goal was to win it,” said Pfeifer. However, winning the Warrior Open wasn’t as easy as he made it appear. “It was a little nerve-wracking with President Bush watching a lot of my tee shots,” Pfeifer said.

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.

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.

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.

 

Schooop…

By Retired SGM Vondell Brown, AW2 Advocate Support Branch

Warrior Games archer SGT Kenneth Harker prepares to shoot an arrow at his target during practice.

SGT Kenneth Harker held his breath and kept his body steady as he zeroed in through the peep site. When he was sure of his shot, he let go of the release. The only sound that was heard was a whisper of the arrow leaving the bow, “Schooop…”

As the sound faded, it was quickly followed by a hard “thud” as the arrow hit its mark. Then, there was silence. “I was speechless,” Harker explained. He was very surprised since he had only picked up a bow for the first time three months prior.

“It is such a rush,” Harker from the Warrior Transition Unit at Walter Reed Army Medical Center exclaimed, as he qualified for the finals in the archery compound competition at the Warrior Games in Colorado Springs, CO. “I am very proud of him,” said his wife Heather Harker as she continued to cheer him on in the finals.

“After I was injured and my legs were amputated, life seemed uncertain. It seemed that much had been taken away,” Harker explained. After being in Baghdad for just six months, he was injured. He was part of a 22 vehicle convey on Route Gold. His vehicle was hit by an explosive formed penetrator (EFP). His injuries included a hole in his right forearm and the back of his legs were blown off. He had no feeling from his knee down, so he opted to have his legs from his knees down amputated.

Having already clinched the bronze medal in the seated discus last Tuesday, Harker stated, “I’m feeling overwhelmed.” He explained these feelings to me as each round went by and he heard his name called to advance. Harker was presented with the silver medal by MG Gary Cheek, Director of Military Personnel Management for the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, G-1. After receiving his medal, Harker stated,“I am going to train and annihilate the competition next year.” He plans to practice hard all year and take up bow hunting. In support of this, many people have told him to check out the AW2 Community Support Network for organizations that help bring recreational opportunities, such as hunting to wounded warriors. He said that when he returns home, he is going to check them out.

 

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