Warrior Games 2013 Recap

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – This still image from the video cameras at the 4x100 relay finish line at U.S. Air Force Academy shows SGT Ryan McIntosh from Fort Sam Houston WTB winning by 1/200th of a second. After losing his right leg below the knee, McIntosh serves as an adaptive sports NCO at Fort Sam Houston WTB, where he inspires other WTU Soldiers to participate in adaptive reconditioning activities.

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – This still image from the video cameras at the 4×100 relay finish line at U.S. Air Force Academy shows SGT Ryan McIntosh from Fort Sam Houston WTB winning by 1/200th of a second. After losing his right leg below the knee, McIntosh serves as an adaptive sports NCO at Fort Sam Houston WTB, where he inspires other WTU Soldiers to participate in adaptive reconditioning activities.

By BG David J. Bishop
Warrior Games 2013 is in the history books, and what a great week of competition it was for our warriors. Team Army came close to the overall goal of winning the Chairman’s Cup with their resilience, physical strength, athletic prowess and sportsmanship. Each of our Soldier-athletes inspired everyone in attendance.

For this year’s Warrior Games, our goals included:
1)    Maximizing the opportunity to introduce as many wounded, ill, or injured Soldiers to adaptive reconditioning as possible. One way we accomplished this was by hosting 17 training and selection clinics throughout the year, compared to five for 2012. At these clinics, Soldiers received training in the flagship sports for the Warrior Games. Each of the 325 Soldiers who applied trained in at least three events, and this year, world class Olympic and Paralympic coaches worked with our athletes.
2)    Inspiring as many wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers as possible to recognize their full potential and focus on more than just their injuries. Wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers throughout the WCTP saw our Army athletes excel at the competition. Our diverse Army team consisted of 29 Soldiers and 21 Veterans, with 22 combat wounded and 7 with behavioral health conditions. The resilience, strength and determination of these Soldier- athletes serve as a symbol of hope for many overcoming obstacles regardless of their injury or illness.
3)    Fielding a great team to represent the Army in competition and enhance Army esprit de corps. This year, with more selection and training camps, we ensured a strong Army team capable of competing with the best athletes from all of the services. Our Army wheelchair basketball team dominated the court and took home the Gold for the third year in a row, and they’re just one example of the competitive outcomes our team achieved throughout the week.
4)    Providing hope to every newly-wounded Soldier who returns from Afghanistan, so they can realize that their injuries are not life-ending. When Soldiers see our Army athletes or others like them, they recognize the potential for a bright and fulfilling future.

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – The members of the 2013 U.S. Army Warrior Games team pose with their medals, coaches and Senior Army Leaders during the closing ceremonies at the U.S. Air Force Academy. (Photo by U.S. Army)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – The members of the 2013 U.S. Army Warrior Games team pose with their medals, coaches and Senior Army Leaders during the closing ceremonies at the U.S. Air Force Academy. (Photo by U.S. Army)

In a valiant effort to close the medal gap with the Marine Corps team, Team Army beat its 2012 medal count by 18 (81 medals this year compared to 63 in 2012).  I am confident that Team Army’s example will motivate each of the other services to up their game in the future.  With continued emphasis in the value of adaptive reconditioning and adaptive sports across the Warrior Care and Transition Program, including the exceptional training and selection camps the Army conducted over the past year, I also believe that Team Army athletes will continue to improve and that the Chairman’s Cup will be in Army hands in 2014.

Putting aside for a moment the obvious excitement that athletic competition provides, I would like to reflect on the much larger picture of what adaptive reconditioning and resilience training does for wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers.  Losing limbs, being severely burned, suffering a traumatic brain injury, post traumatic stress – as life changing as these events undoubtedly can be, one thing stands out: the Army’s determination to honor its sacred commitment to take care of its men and women in uniform.  Often, however, the state-of-the-art medical innovations that help save lives and help put Soldiers back together are not enough when it comes to coming to grips with the profound changes these injuries and illnesses mean for their lives.

At Warrior Games, in the clinics leading up to Warrior Games, and in talking with Warrior Transition Unit Commanders and Soldiers, I often hear a frequent and recurring theme: participating in adaptive reconditioning activities, athletics, and the life-coaching experiences of the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program gives Soldiers the nudge they need to get back into living. These activities play a vital role in allowing Soldiers to unleash their unlimited potential and focus on something more than their injuries.

BETHESDA, Md. – Army 1st Lt. Nathan Rimpf, injured by an improvised explosive device during combat patrol in the Ghazni Province of Afghanistan on July 8, 2012, works out in the Military Advanced Training Center (MATC) at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in May 2013. Soldiers like Rimpf help inspire newly wounded Soldiers to advance their recovery and quality of life through sports and adaptive reconditioning activities.

BETHESDA, Md. – Army 1st Lt. Nathan Rimpf, injured by an improvised explosive device during combat patrol in the Ghazni Province of Afghanistan on July 8, 2012, works out in the Military Advanced Training Center (MATC) at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in May 2013. Soldiers like Rimpf help inspire newly wounded Soldiers to advance their recovery and quality of life through sports and adaptive reconditioning activities.

I urge everyone to get to know the Soldiers and Families that make up the Warrior Transition Units and the Army Wounded Warrior Program, and especially these great Warrior Games competitors.  I can almost guarantee that you will come away from the experience uplifted yourself, just from the opportunity to let the infectious enthusiasm of these brave men and women rub off on you.  I know I am a better person for the experience, and I am sure you will be as well.

Weekly Recap:

  • Wheelchair basketball – Team Army took home the Gold for the third year in a row
  • Shooting – Team Army nearly tripled last year’s medal count (3 medals lasT year, 8 this year)
  • Sitting volleyball – After a hard-fought effort against the Marine Corps, Team Army won the Silver medal
  • Track and field –  Team Army won 33 medals, including a thrilling come-from-behind effort to win Gold in the 4×100 relay
  • Archery – Team Army dominated, winning 6 of 8 possible medals
  • Cycling – Team Army won 9 medals overall – with our female athletes sweeping  the medal stand
  • Swimming– With the Warrior Transition Command’s LTC Danny Dudek leading the way with 4 Gold and 1 Silver medal, Team Army came away with a total of 13 Gold, 8 Silver, and 2 Bronze medals

Total – MEDAL COUNT: 264 medals

  • Army = 81: Gold (33), Silver (26), Bronze (22)
  • Marines = 92: Gold (34), Silver (33) Bronze (25)
  • Navy/Coast Guard = 23: Gold (8), Silver (5) Bronze (10)
  • Air Force = 30: Gold (3), Silver (10), Bronze (17)
  • SOCOM = 16: Gold (5), Silver (6), Bronze (5)
  • U.K. = 22: Gold (5), Silver (8), Bronze (9)

Total Medal Count – 264

“Paying It Forward”

We take care of all of our Soldiers – wounded, ill or injured.  Veteran Charles Armstead takes time out from Warrior Games training schedule to discuss the importance of the Army adaptive reconditioning program.  He credits the program with helping transform his life, attitude, and priorities. He is competing in cycling, wheelchair basketball, and sitting volleyball. Armstead resides in Needville, Texas. Photograph by Christian Turner

We take care of all of our Soldiers – wounded, ill or injured.
Veteran Charles Armstead takes time out from Warrior Games training schedule to discuss the importance of the Army adaptive reconditioning program. He credits the program with helping transform his life, attitude, and priorities. He is competing in cycling, wheelchair basketball, and sitting volleyball. Armstead resides in Needville, Texas. Photograph by Christian Turner

Christian Turner, Guest Blogger
“Paying it forward” has become the credo for Sgt. 1st Class Charles Armstead.  While this year will be Armstead’s first at the Warrior Games, he is already preparing to win a victory for the Army team. Things weren’t always as hopeful. In May 2009, the armor crewman was struck in the abdomen by an insurgent bullet at close range while deployed to Iraq. The round shattered his right hip and severed his spine, leaving him with permanent nerve damage in his left leg and the amputation of his right leg at the hip.

Like many wounded warriors competing in this week’s games, the road to recovery for this Army Veteran is ongoing. “I spent two or three months feeling sorry for myself,” he confessed, “then I decided to do something.”  It was the visit of a Vietnam Veteran, who shared the same injuries as Armstead, that inspired him to take action. Soon, the sergeant found himself encouraging new arrivals at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, reminding the recently injured Soldiers, “there is a light at the end of the tunnel.”

While at Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, Armstead was introduced to adaptive reconditioning through the Warrior Transition Unit (WTU). It was there that Armstead began developing a passion for hand cycling and wheelchair basketball. These two sports provided an opportunity for him to gain the cardio exercise he so desperately missed after sustaining his injuries. In his words, “the joy of cycling came naturally, it wasn’t a forced effort.”  This joy proved contagious, with Armstead taking his love of basketball and cycling to the Warrior Games. “I’m real competitive,” says a smiling Armstead.

“Warrior Games is a chance to again compete for the Army.” This sentiment expressed by Armstead is one shared by many Soldiers here.  It’s a chance to demonstrate to the community that a wounded warrior’s mission is ongoing. Sometimes, people who are unfamiliar with assisting wounded Soldiers can mean well, offering so much help that it can serve as a hindrance to recovery. The Veteran recounts, “Often, I have to tell people ‘No’ when they offer tohelp me do simple tasks. I try to never be rude, but I have to attempt things on my own if I am to be the independent person I need to be.”

The Veteran is extremely grateful for the outreach provided by the WTU and organizations such as Heroes on the Water. “Its nice to know there are still some good people in the world who value what Soldiers do on a daily basis,”said an emotional Armstead. Through his injuries and events like the Warrior Games, Armstead has strengthened his resolve and perspective towards recovery. “I know everything happens for a reason,” he said , “and without my injury I would have never met people just like me who have become the strongest circle of friends in my life.”

Armstead looks forward to competing in Wheelchair Basketball for the Army, but the greater excitement lies in seeing his family, who are joining him for the competition.   “My family has provided the greatest encouragement to me during this whole process. And, through social media, they’ve been able to cheer me on the whole way. I think they’re even more excited than I am.”

It All Started With a Two Day Trip and a Borrowed Mountain Bike

By:  LuAnn Georgia, Warrior Transition Command 

Veteran Ashley Crandall shares how adaptive reconditioning has helped her deal with injuries sustained while on active duty in the Army.  Crandall, from Salt Lake City, Utah, has found a sense of purpose working with other disabled Soldiers and Veterans and encourages them to get active. This year at Warrior Games, she is competing in swimming and cycling.   Photograph by:  Christian Turner

Veteran Ashley Crandall shares how adaptive reconditioning has helped her deal with injuries sustained while on active duty in the Army. Crandall, from Salt Lake City, Utah, has found a sense of purpose working with other disabled Soldiers and Veterans and encourages them to get active. This year at Warrior Games, she is competing in swimming and cycling. Photograph by: Christian Turner

Ashley Crandall never questioned her decision to join the Army.  She joined under delayed enlistment at 16, and was on active duty after she turned 17. Crandall served for over ten years before retiring for medical reasons.

During her time in the Army Crandall worked as a helicopter mechanic, serving three combat tours in Iraq,  and three weeks before she was supposed to return home from her third deployment she realized that “something was wrong, something had changed inside”.  She noted that in addition to dealing with the trauma of combat, she was the survivor of two separate incidences of sexual assault.  All of the trauma caught up with her and she was diagnosed with PTSD and hospitalized on Christmas day.  On New Year ’s Day she was medevaced to Walter Reed where she spent the next three years recovering and rehabilitating.

These days Crandall spends much of her time training, cycling and working with other Soldiers and Veterans to help with their recovery.  When ask about how she became interested in cycling, she said “while at Walter Reed a friend talked me into doing a bike ride with the organization Face of America”. Although she hadn’t been on a bike in over 15 years, she borrowed a mountain bike and went on to complete the two-day, 110 mile ride. The same friend, who talked Crandall into her first ride, convinced her to get involved with the organization Ride 2 Recovery (R2R). She shared that R2R challenges offered more intense rides ranging from 300-500 miles, lasting up to six days and that she has completed 20 of these challenges since 2009.

Crandall goes on to say “Ride 2 Recovery saved my life”. She adds that cycling serves more than one purpose in her life “not only does it help me physically, it also acts as therapy. It’s not stressful and you have people that you ride next to who you can talk with but when you start pedaling all the stress and frustration goes into the pavement.” She added that cycling with R2R is different because “it’s a ride, not a race and no one rides faster than the slowest rider. The slowest rider sets the pace.”

When ask about her feelings towards Warrior Games Ashley said “my original goal was just to get here but once I made the team my goals started to change”. Crandall hopes to medal but adds “the competition is a little intimidating. It’s my first race ever”. She goes on to say that she likes being around the other athletes because “you don’t need to explain yourself to anyone. No one is asking questions because they already know.”

Training for Crandall includes working with a private coach at least four days a week for up to two hours a day. Outside of training and competing at Warrior Games, she is also working to establish a daily cycling program at the Philadelphia Veterans Administration. The goal is to get other disabled Veterans engaged in their own recovery.

Although Crandall prefers to work “behind the scenes” she knows she has to share her story in order to help herself as well as others in the recovery and rehabilitation process. Her greatest reward comes from “helping others grow and gain confidence”.

Soldiers First, Athletes Second

Fort Carson, Colo  – U.S. Army Soldiers train during track and field practice May 2013 in preparation for the 2013 Warrior Games. Since 2010 the Warrior Games have brought together wounded, ill or injured service members to compete. This year, the Warrior Games will include wounded warriors from the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Coast Guard, Air Force, Special Operations Command and the United Kingdom. (U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt Yves-Marie Daley, 210th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)

Fort Carson, Colo – U.S. Army Soldiers train during track and field practice May 2013 in preparation for the 2013 Warrior Games. Since 2010 the Warrior Games have brought together wounded, ill or injured service members to compete. This year, the Warrior Games will include wounded warriors from the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Coast Guard, Air Force, Special Operations Command and the United Kingdom. (U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt Yves-Marie Daley, 210th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)

Warrior Transition Command Chaplain, Maj. Ken Godwin
The night before the opening ceremony at the 2013 Warrior Games I had the opportunity to speak to the Army team to provide some spiritual insight and perhaps motivate the athletes to great heights in this year’s competition. What to say? It was not my job to give a typical sports “pep talk.” It was my job as I understand it to remind these warriors and athletes of the importance of their whole person. That they are more than just bodies who can perform great feats on the athletic field or court.

I began by focusing these competitors on the Soldier side of things. After all, they are Soldiers first. The reason they are involved in this competition in the first place is because they are either active duty Soldiers or Army Veterans. I reminded them of a quote from General George Marshal that the Soldier’s spirit and soul is the thing that sustains him. I wanted these Soldiers to know that it’s not just their chaplain reminding them of the importance of their spirits when it comes to their soldierly duties. I also think it’s important that they see that spirituality and the Soldier is a very real part of our history as an Army.

The second part of my talk focused on athletics and spirituality. For a great historical example of religion and sports I offered them a quote from 1924 Scottish gold medal runner Eric Liddel. Liddel was the son of Christian missionaries whose faith was a huge part of his success as a runner and who was immortalized in the movie Chariots of Fire. Liddel is attributed as saying “God made me for a purpose but He also made me fast, and when I run I feel his pleasure.” I reminded these warrior athletes that although they have individual purposes in life as parents, Soldiers,  and friends — for this week and this week alone, their God given purpose is to compete at their best. When they do that, God is pleased.

As I write this post we are only two days into the competition. How it shakes out remains to be seen. But I look forward to seeing how well our Army Warrior Games team does and whether they take the Chairman’s Cup from the Marines. I’m hoping for victory on the field of competition as are they. But most of all I hope that these Soldiers will see their purpose fulfilled this week. I’m praying that they come to understand that God will be pleased win or lose if they find their purpose in Him.

Q&A with Warrior Games Bronze Medalist, Elizabeth Wasil

FORT CARSON, Colo. -- Spc. Elizabeth Wasil, swimmer, World Class Athlete Program, practices her wheelchair race events for the Warrior Games May 7, 2013 at Carson Middle School, Fort Carson. Wasil will be competing in hand-cycling, wheelchair racing, shot-put, and discus events. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. William Smith, 4th Inf. Div. PAO)

FORT CARSON, Colo. — Spc. Elizabeth Wasil, swimmer, World Class Athlete Program, practices her wheelchair race events for the Warrior Games May 7, 2013 at Carson Middle School, Fort Carson. Wasil will be competing in hand-cycling, wheelchair racing, shot-put, and discus events.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. William Smith, 4th Inf. Div. PAO)

By Alli Kartachak, WTC Stratcom
If anyone is a testament to the power of adaptive reconditioning on the healing process, it is Elizabeth Wasil. As a combat medic on assignment in Afghanistan in 2010, she sustained bilateral hip injuries, impeding her ability to walk, and underwent three surgeries to restructure her hips in order to regain mobility.

Today, the specialist from Prescott Valley, Arizona is defying the odds. Her participation in adaptive reconditioning activities and the 2012 Warrior Games propelled her military and athletic career and brought her from ‘injured Soldier’ to the first Paralympic swimmer in the U.S. World Class Athlete Program (WCAP).

This year, she continues to shine at the 2013 Warrior Games, stealing the bronze for women’s hand cycling for the Army on May 13 at the U.S. Air Force Academy. She is also slated to compete in the track and field events as an Army athlete at this year’s competition.

I took some time with the bronze medalist after her hand cycling win to ask her a few questions:

Q: What does being a part of Warrior Games mean to you?

A: It means that I get to represent the Army and participate with some of the world’s finest athletes and surround myself with humble heroes.

Q: How did adaptive reconditioning help you in your transition/ road to recovery?

A: Adaptive reconditioning led me to the Warrior Games. It took me from someone who was injured into an athlete in the WCTP. It launched my career and gave me a chance to compete with some of the best athletes out there.

Q: What would you say to other wounded, ill or injured Soldiers about the value of adaptive reconditioning?

A: I would say that it has changed my life. I would tell wounded, ill or injured athletes to just try it – give adaptive reconditioning a chance and see what it can do for you.

Q: As a member of the WCTP do you have your sights set on Rio for the 2016 Paralympic Games?

A: I’m hopeful! It is a possibility.

Q: Anything else that you would like to add?

A: Thank you to Army leadership – especially to MSG Jongema. He’s been a true leader and has poured his heart out into this competition. I don’t think he can ever get the recognition he deserves for all that he has done.

Thank you Spc. Wasil for your inspirational messages – you are a symbol of hope for so many wounded, ill and injured Soldiers.

WARRIOR GAMES MEDAL UPDATE: After this interview took place, Spc. Wasil has won gold in the Women’s Track 1500M Wheelchair event. See the full list of Warrior Games results at http://www.teamusa.org/US-Paralympics/Military/Warrior-Games-presented-by-Deloitte/Competition-Results.aspx.

Veteran Charles “Chuck” Allen Finds Inspiration and Support at the Warrior Games

(From Left) Retired Army Spc. Juan Soto, a veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom, retired Army Sgt. Charles (Chuck) Allen, formerly stationed at Fort Hood, Tx., and retired Army veteran Spc. Anthony Pone, scrimmage during a wheelchair basketball practice at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Co., on 24 April, 2012. These athletes are joined by dozens of other wounded, ill and injured Soldiers and Army veterans selected to compete in the Warrior Games beginning April 30, 2012. (U.S. Army photo by Cpl. Kyle Wagoner, 43rd Public Affair Detachment)

(From Left) Retired Army Spc. Juan Soto, a veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom, retired Army Sgt. Charles (Chuck) Allen, formerly stationed at Fort Hood, Tx., and retired Army veteran Spc. Anthony Pone, scrimmage during a wheelchair basketball practice at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Co., on 24 April, 2012. These athletes are joined by dozens of other wounded, ill and injured Soldiers and Army veterans selected to compete in the Warrior Games beginning April 30, 2012. (U.S. Army photo by Cpl. Kyle Wagoner, 43rd Public Affair Detachment)

By, Cait McCarrie WTC Stratcom
The 2013 Warrior Games athletes haven’t wasted any time getting into the warrior mindset. Back to back practice schedules, weight training and team bonding activities showcase but the athletes’ hard work and dedication.  The Warrior Games give the world an opportunity to see how adaptive sports and reconditioning play a role in Soldier recovery and transition. They also showcase the importance of integrating physical activity into wounded, ill, or injured Soldier’s recovery and transition process.  The Warrior Games is just one example of how competitive sports facilitate the recovery process. One athlete who knows this all too well is Veteran Charles Allen of the Army wheelchair basketball team.

Two-time Warrior Games medal winner, Allen, will compete in field and wheelchair basketball at this year’s competition. In 2012, Allen took home the gold in wheelchair basketball and silver in sitting discus. Allen is ready to bring home the gold again this year, and brings his all to team practice. Allen like the other athletes understands that training is a year-long endeavor, and as a player for the Movin’ Mavs wheelchair basketball team, he practices what he preaches.

Allen was injured during a training exercise at Fort Hood, Texas and as a result was paralyzed from the waist down. Having been an athlete growing up, Allen saw an opportunity to get involved in a new sport.  Allen was inspired by other wounded Soldiers and Veterans who were using adaptive sports in their recovery. They sparked his interest in wheelchair basketball.  The wheelchair basketball players at the VA in Dallas inspired him to get on the court and give the sport a shot. Ever since, Allen has been a devoted player. It’s been nearly ten years since Allen started playing wheelchair basketball, and even though he wasn’t a basketball player before his injury, he’s a natural on the court and enjoys the comradery and support he gets from his teammates.

Team sports like wheelchair basketball offer a unique opportunity to integrate not only physical activity into one’s recovery but a chance to utilize communication and personal skills that Soldiers and Veterans learn while in the military. When asked what he enjoys most about playing wheelchair basketball Allen credits his teammates, “I like the team aspect of the sport and the strenuous activity that it puts us through.”

Allen will be competing in field on May 14th from 0800-1600 MDT (1000-1800 EDT) at the United States Air Force Academy and wheelchair basketball throughout the week. Watch the wheelchair basketball finals live on ESPN on Wednesday, May 15th.

Jimmy Green Brings 24 Years Experience to Army Warrior Games Team

After 24 years on the wheelchair basketball court, Jimmy Green prepared to earn Army Warrior Games gold. Pictured here at the National Veteran Wheelchair Games, Green holds a 2008 Division 3 national title.

After 24 years on the wheelchair basketball court, Jimmy Green prepared to earn Army Warrior Games gold. Pictured here at the National Veteran Wheelchair Games, Green holds a 2008 Division 3 national title.

By Sarah Bartnick, WTC Stratcom
It’s been 26 years since the car accident outside Fort Lewis, Washington, that left Jimmy Green a paraplegic and ended his Army career. And 24 years since he discovered wheelchair basketball.

“As soon as I rolled into that gym, a light came over me,” said Green of the day he skeptically ventured into an interest meeting for a new team in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky. “It gave me my identity back—I realized I could still be an athlete.”

Green went on to an illustrious wheelchair basketball career, winning the Division 3 National Championship in 2008 and as a current member of the Orlando Magic Wheels. He’s seen the game evolve over the last quarter-century, with the National Wheelchair Basketball Association growing to a league of 88 teams across three divisions.

“The technology of the game has changed a lot,” said Green. He explained that players originally used regular wheelchairs. Over time, players started using chairs with additional tilt—called camber—to improve the turn velocity and stability. A fifth wheel was added in the back. Now, players at all levels use chairs specifically designed for this sport, and many elite athletes order chairs customized for their individual bodies and abilities. Players customize the wheel size, specify the seat height, and choose between aluminum and titanium frames, among other options.

According to the National Wheelchair Basketball Association, the sport originated in 1948 with World War II Veterans, primarily paraplegics and spinal cord injuries. In 1960, it earned a spot in the Rome Paralympic Games, and today, the International Wheelchair Basketball Federation estimates that approximately 100,000 people around the world play wheelchair basketball for recreation or in competition.

Despite his active participation in a wide variety of adaptive sports and competitions, the Warrior Games captured Green’s attention after he saw a WTC video.

“The Warrior Games are a different dynamic, more exclusive,” said Green. “Getting selected was a challenge, plus there’s the opportunity to contribute to the Army team. The other competitions are focused on the individual, and knowing that my performance impacts the other Army athletes is a cool feeling. I feel like a Soldier, a member of a unit again.”

Green sees adaptive sports as a key element to his continuous recovery over the last 26 years. He credits it with helping him push his physical limits and emotionally, regaining the confidence to stretch his abilities in all walks of life. Sports also introduced him to a broader community of people with similar physical challenges.

“Being around other injured people helped me not feel alone,” he explained. “You talk to other guys with similar injuries and share little tricks about how to thrive.”

Overall, adaptive sports helped Green understand that he was still the same person he was before his injury. “It gave me my identity back,” he beamed. “When you roll out on the court, you’re just an athlete playing a sport.”

Watch Green and the rest of the Army wheelchair basketball team defend the 2012 gold in the Warrior Games Gold Medal Game Wednesday, May 15 on ESPN at 6:30 pm EST.

A Closer Look at Adaptive Reconditioning

By Cait McCarrie, WTC Stratcom

MSG Jarrett Jongema of the Warrior Transition Command.

MSG Jarrett Jongema of the Warrior Transition Command.

Adaptive reconditioning includes any physical activities that wounded, ill, or injured Soldiers participate in regularly to optimize their physical well-being. These activities can help Soldiers have a successful recovery whether they are transitioning back to active duty or to civilian life.

“Team building experiences, learning a new sport, and routinely practicing a challenging activity help Soldiers take responsibility for their own recovery,” said MSG Jarret Jongema, Warrior Transition Command, Adaptive Sports and Reconditioning Branch.Adaptive reconditioning programs are not traditional clinic-based rehabilitation programs, however, they often support medical goals defined in the Comprehensive Transition Plan (CTP).

The CTP supports Soldiers in transition with personalized goals in six areas: career, physical, emotional, spiritual, social, and Family. Adaptive reconditioning plays an important role in the CTP because it connects physical activity with each of those six components. It’s also a great way for Soldiers to incorporate competitive and non-competitive physical activity into their recovery.

Adaptive reconditioning is most well-known for servicemembers’ participation in adaptive sports, but it’s not just about sports. “The beauty of these activities is that no matter what your injury or experience, there is an activity for you,” said Jongema. Activities include competitive team sports, aquatic exercises, therapeutic recreational activities, gym-based training, functional training, and human performance optimization.

Adaptive reconditioning gives Soldiers the opportunity to integrate physical activity into their lives in new ways that addresses multiple parts of the path to recovery. “Whether competing on a team sport or in an individual activity, adaptive reconditioning reintegrates discipline, goal setting, and concentration into Soldiers’ lives,” added Jongema.  While each Soldier adapts to activities in different ways, participating in adaptive reconditioning often addresses physical and emotional parts of recovery.

Many Soldiers and Veterans who participate in adaptive sports and reconditioning go on to train for and even compete in the Warrior Games. This year’s games are from May 11-17 in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Learn more about the road to Warrior Games here.

Eight-Time World Log-Rolling Champion Gears Up for Warrior Games Debut

By Sarah Bartnick, WTC Stratcom
Army Veteran J.R. Salzman has never been one to watch from the sidelines. Inspired by the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, he enlisted in the Minnesota National Guard. During his deployments, he served on patrol missions and convoy escort teams, among the most dangerous assignments in Iraq. He competed as a professional log-roller and won eight world titles from 1998 to 2010.

Covering the 2012 Warrior Games as a reporter inspired Army Veteran J.R. Salzman to compete for a spot on the 2013 Army team. The eight-time log-rolling world champion, pictured here at a Tough Mudder event, will go for gold in cycling and track in his Warrior Games debut. (Photo courtesy of J.R. Salzman)

Covering the 2012 Warrior Games as a reporter inspired Army Veteran J.R. Salzman to compete for a spot on the 2013 Army team. The eight-time log-rolling world champion, pictured here at a Tough Mudder event, will go for gold in cycling and track in his Warrior Games debut. (Photo courtesy of J.R. Salzman)

On December 19, 2006, his unit was scouting for Improvised Explosive Devises (IEDs) when his HUMVEE was struck by an Explosively Formed Penetrator (EFP). Salzman lost his right arm below the elbow and sustained severe damage to his left hand and a traumatic brain injury. But even these injuries didn’t stop him from earning his seventh and eight world log-rolling titles, blogging about wounded warrior and military issues, or becoming a freelance journalist.

He’s a participant in life, not a watcher. That’s why he wasn’t satisfied with his role as a reporter at the 2012 Warrior Games. I met him when he covered the Warrior Transition Command press conference, and I could see it in his eyes. The itch, the frustration, the desire to get out and show all the other wounded, ill or injured athletes that he could outperform each of them. But more importantly, he found the community of “wounded warriors” he’d missed since he left the Army, a community that understands and embraces one another. A community that celebrates abilities and accomplishments just as much as winning gold.

Here’s what he wrote about his 2012 Warrior Games experience on his personal blog:

As a fellow wounded warrior at the games, I found myself with the unfamiliar feeling of comfort in my surroundings. It was a feeling I had not felt since I was a recovering patient at Walter Reed in 2007. Despite the fact I was at the games as a civilian journalist, and was surrounded by many who had injuries far more severe, I heard “thank you for your service” more times during my one-week stay than in my last six months in the civilian world. At the Warrior Games, people get it. They did not ask a million questions, some bordering on the absurd or obtuse. They did not debate you on the merits of the war, or apologize for what happened to you because you had to go “over there.

Army Swimming Team Prepares to Compete in the 2013 Warrior Games

Staff Sgt. Robert Iem, Warrior Transition Battalion Cadre Staff (left) and Comprehensive Soldier and Family Fitness-Performance Enhancement Specialist Kelly O’Brien (right) check in with Sgt. Delvin Maston after the team’s practice at the Iron Horse Pool on Fort Carson, Colo. on May 7, 2013. (Photo by U.S. Army Warrior Transition Command).

Staff Sgt. Robert Iem, Warrior Transition Battalion Cadre Staff (left) and Comprehensive Soldier and Family Fitness-Performance Enhancement Specialist Kelly O’Brien (right) check in with Sgt. Delvin Maston after the team’s practice at the Iron Horse Pool on Fort Carson, Colo. on May 7, 2013. (Photo by U.S. Army Warrior Transition Command).

After months of training and tryouts, a full day of rest, and experiencing a small piece of Colorado Springs, seven Soldiers from the U.S. Army swim team spent three early-morning hours swimming laps and perfecting their form at the Iron Horse Pool at Fort Carson, Colo.

The Army team, a dynamic mix of Soldiers and Veterans, certainly has the talent and confidence to win gold. “We’ve got a really good team of athletes and swimmers… they are a lot of fun,” said Coach Bob Bugg.

A swim instructor from Georgia, Bugg was introduced to the Warrior Games this year when a previous student – and coach for a Marine Corp Warrior Games team – recommended him. He committed to the team after a few swim camps, and along with the team’s resilience coach and Warrior Transition Battalion (WTB) Cadre, provides a tremendous amount of support to the team, while encouraging them to train hard. Other supporters in attendance for practice events included a WTB Commander, an Occupational Therapist from Fort Knox, Ky. and a handful of Fort Carson’s active duty Soldiers and Family members.

Army Swim Coach Bob Bugg helps Spc. Alaina Barnes perfect her form during practice at the Iron Horse Pool on Fort Carson, Colo. on May 7, 2013. (Photo by U.S. Army Warrior Transition Command).

Army Swim Coach Bob Bugg helps Spc. Alaina Barnes perfect her form during practice at the Iron Horse Pool on Fort Carson, Colo. on May 7, 2013. (Photo by U.S. Army Warrior Transition Command).

The Army Swim team will continue to train throughout the week in preparation for the start of the Games on Saturday, May 11, 2013. And when they are not in the pool, they are training to compete in other Warrior Games sports.

Sgt. Delvin Maston, a native of Birmingham, Ala., is no stranger to the Warrior Games, though this year is most important; he’s taking his competitive spirit from the gym floor to the pool. “I’m most excited to swim this year,” he said, adding that it has only been about six months since he learned to swim after his 2009 injury. He also plans to win more gold medals in the Wheelchair Basketball and Sitting Volleyball events.

Fellow Infantryman Spc. Quinton Picone decided to end practice on a lighter note when he pulled himself up the stairs of the higher of the two diving boards and jumped in the pool surrounded by his teammates and coaching staff. “I just wanted to do it for fun,” he said “but tomorrow, I am going to do a backflip!”

Spc. Quinton Picone dives into the pool “for fun” after three grueling hours of practice at the Iron Horse Pool on Fort Carson, Colo. on May 7, 2013. (Photo by U.S. Army Warrior Transition Command).

Spc. Quinton Picone dives into the pool “for fun” after three grueling hours of practice at the Iron Horse Pool on Fort Carson, Colo. on May 7, 2013. (Photo by U.S. Army Warrior Transition Command).

Bugg has taken quick to the courage and determination that is the warriors’ spirit and has the upmost confidence in each of his Swimmers. “They will race, and they will win!”

The Swimming events will take place on the morning of Friday, May 16, 2013 at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo.

The Warrior Games bring together wounded, ill, or injured service members 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 www.WTC.army.mil.

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