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 www.WTC.army.mil.

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.”

Army and USA Volleyball Coaches Welcome Warrior Games Sitting Volleyball Hopefuls to UCO Clinic

Warrior Games Army athletes gathered for the WTC sitting volleyball clinic at the University of Central Oklahoma. Participants trained with USA Volleyball, U.S. Paralympic, and Army coaches to fine tune skills as they competed for final slots on the Army team.

By Erich Langer, WTC Stratcom
The Army’s 2012 Warrior Games sitting volleyball team has been determined. Twelve athletes made it through the selection process and competed over the last four months under the tutelage of Army, USA Volleyball, and U.S. Paralympic coaches.

Athletes trained together at the University of Central Oklahoma’s (UCO) Wellness Center in Edmond, Oklahoma and at a clinic hosted by Penn State University.

“We had a difficult time narrowing the field, but we believe we have the right talent and chemistry to move forward in fielding an Army team that will take gold at the 2012 Warrior Games,” said CPT David Vendt, Army sitting volleyball coach. “I can tell you one thing; our athletes will work their butts off. We will not get out hustled.”

The final team will represent the Army at the U.S. Olympic National Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, April 30 – May 5.
These finalists trained at UCO, a U.S. Paralympic training site, under the direction of Vendt and U.S. sitting volleyball athlete recruitment coordinator, Elliot Blake.  Blake worked with all of these athletes at previous clinics that also include some Soldiers from the Army team that took silver at the 2011 Warrior Games.

“Movement, movement, movement,” Blake found himself repeating throughout the first day’s practice. “You just can’t underestimate the importance of moving, anticipating the next shot, and where you need to be on the court. If you’re sitting still and watching, you’re going to get beat. It’s easy to be lazy in the gym but the effort to win is the responsibility of every player.”

Blake’s consistent message resonated with the Army athletes. It didn’t take long for each to realize that to play as a team they had to work together.

“We’re not playing a pickup game. You’re practicing and preparing to compete at Warrior Games. Pass the ball. Always be thinking of passing and setting up a teammate for the next shot,” continued Blake, who calmly provided instruction in between drills, scrimmage sessions, and even at water breaks, never missing an opportunity to impress the fundamentals on the players.

“Ok, I want everyone to start calling the ball, when you say ‘mine’ it lets your teammates know you’ve got it, then they can move into position for the next shot. Always think about positioning and being prepared for the follow up  shot,” Blake added.

Blake turned much of the UCO clinic sessions over to Vendt.

“We’re training each morning, taking a mid-day break, and then getting back after it,” said Vendt, an enthusiastic coach who volunteered for this gig after playing the game and setting up the Community-Based Warrior Transition Command (CBWTU) Virginia’s sitting volleyball program.

Vendt serves as the CBWTU-VA nurse case manager. In that capacity he assists Soldiers with employment, education, and transition opportunities.

“I really appreciate Master Sergeant Jongema and Lieutenant Colonel Williams from the Warrior Transition Command (WTC) Adaptive Reconditioning Branch for selecting me to lead this year’s Warrior Games sitting volleyball team,” said Vendt. “We’ve got a great bunch of Soldiers here, and I am committed to do my best to prepare them for the games.

“Working with Coach Blake, UCO, and the U.S. Paralympic folks has been so helpful, each is so knowledgeable,” Vendt added. “They really have embraced athletes and are committed to helping us prepare to be the best.”

Army Warrior Games Archery Clinic Receives Overwhelming Support from the Sumter Community, Third Army/ARCENT

By LTC Jeanette Griffin, WTC Stratcom

More than 30 Senior Non-Commissioned Officers (SNCO) assigned to Third Army decided to conduct their weekly staff meeting at the Sumter County State Fairgrounds, Sumter, South Carolina. After the meeting, several of the SNCOs and American Legion members posed for a photo and mingled with the more than 12 wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers during the Warrior Transition Command hosted Army archery clinic on March 12-16. Photo Credit: LTC JeanetteGriffin.

After more than five months of planning, organizing, and collaborating with the Sumter community and Third Army/ARCENT, 12 wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers and Veterans traveled across the country to train and compete for places on the  Army Warrior Games team on March 12 -16 in Sumter, South Carolina.

The first archery selection clinic was conducted January 31- 5 February in Sumter, only the top eight archers from both recurve and compound bow competitions will earn a spot on the team.

“During the first clinic, 18 shooters came to Sumter with hopes of wearing the Army colors in this year’s Warrior Games,” said retired SFC Steven Coleman, the Warrior Games Army archery coach. “Of these 18, eight Soldiers were selected to return to the second clinic, and four more athletes were added to represent the Warrior Games Army archery team.”

These Soldiers are competing in hopes of being one of 50 athletes representing the Army during the 2012 Warrior Games starting next month in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

“I feel that this clinic really helped me increase my ability to shoot as well as my mental ability to perform at a higher level,” said AW2 Veteran Jessie White. “The local community of Sumter has given amazing support while we were here.”

More than 12 wounded, ill and injured Soldiers and Veterans participated in The Warrior Transition Command's Army archery clinic on March 12-16. Third Army/ARCENT Medics and Combat Lifesavers assisted throughout the week. Photo Credit: (SSG Tracy J. Smith)

The list of supporters include American Legion Post 15, American  Whitetail, Coca-Cola, Crossroads Archery,  Dartfish, Elk’s Lodge, Gamecock Body Shop, Hansen International, emWave, and Third Army/ARCENT.

The offer of support to this effort began with the American Legion Post 15’s agreement to allow the Army archery participants to use the Agriculture Building located in the Sumter County Fairgrounds, in Sumter, South Carolina  for the first clinic held on January 31 to February 5, and the final qualification clinic that was conducted on March 12 -16.

U.S. Army Wounded Warrior Soldier (AW2) Curtis Winston prepares to shoot his recurve bow during training at the Warrior Transition Command (WTC) archery clinic in Sumter, South Carolina on March 12-16. The clinic, taught by U.S. Army Archery Coach and retired Sgt.1st Class Steven Coleman, prepared wounded, ill and injured Soldiers and veterans for this year’s Warrior Games, in Colorado Springs, Colorado on April 30-May 5. Photo Credit: SSG Tracy Smith

“The American Legion served breakfast every morning, a few Legion members treated the team to a lunch, and the Ladies Auxiliary of the Legion cooked and served dinner,” said Coleman.

Since Third Army/ARCENT recently moved from Fort McPherson, Georgia  to Shaw Air Force Base in Sumter, South Carolina,  Coleman’s dad, retired SGM Billy Coleman decided that they should visit Third Army/ARCENT to inform the organization that the Army archery clinic was scheduled to be held just a few miles from the base.

This meeting resulted in Stephenie Tatum, the Third Army/ARCENT media and community relations specialist, and SGM Fletcher the Third Army/ARCENT Public Affairs sergeant major and their team providing media support, committed military support, medics, and combat lifesavers during the clinic.

On Thursday, March 15, more than 30 Sergeants Majors and Directorate Chiefs assigned to Third Army/ARCENT conducted their weekly staff meeting at the Sumter State Fairgrounds.   After the meeting, several of the leaders posed for photos and mingled with the Soldiers and Veterans participating in the clinic extending words of encouragement and support.

“Overall, I felt that this was an excellent clinic,” said SGT Monica Southhall from CBWTU-Virginia. “I look forward to more clinics like this in the future.”

The archery clinic was an opportunity to get the community informed, involved, and excited about the Army’s archery team competing during the 2012 Warrior Games.  All the support provided by the Sumter community and Third Army/ARCENT was greatly appreciated and without a doubt, this was an outstanding clinic for everyone.

“Thanks to the outstanding support of the Sumter County community and several organizations, we have had two very successful clinics in Sumter County,” said Coleman.  “These organizations made it their mission to provide care and support for all of the Soldiers participating in the WTC archery clinics.”

Army athletes compete for spot on Warrior Games shooting team

By SSG Emily Anderson, WTC Stratcom

SPC Justin Miller receives one-on-one training from MSG Howard Day, the Army’s Warrior Games shooting coach during the first Warrior Transition Command (WTC) shooting clinic held March 14-17 in El Paso, Texas. Photo Credit: SSG Emily Anderson

Holding a rifle was nothing new for these athletes concentrating on the targets in front, but the silence in the room spoke volumes. Today was not another weapon’s qualification day, and these were not just any Soldiers.

About 25 wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers and Army Veterans from across the United States trained and competed for places on the Army Warrior Games shooting team during the WTC’s final shooting clinic at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas, March  13 – 17.

“These athletes show a lot of promise,” said MSG Howard Day, the Army’s Warrior Games shooting coach. “We’ve seen dramatic improvements in their skill set from the clinic last month to now.”

Athletes from the Army, Navy/Coast Guard, Air Force, Marines, and Special Operations will compete for the gold in archery, cycling, wheelchair basketball, shooting, swimming, track and field, and sitting volleyball.

“Training for these games has helped me to stay motivated and positive in my rehab so that I can return to duty,” said SSG Vestor Hasson, currently assigned to the WTU at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington.  “I’ve got a fair chance, and I’m going to do my best.”

The games are  April 30 – May 5, in Colorado Springs, Colorado.  The official Army team will be announced in the March-April timeframe by representatives from WTC.

“This clinic has helped prepare myself for Warrior Games,” said AW2 Veteran Charles “Chuck” Allen. “It’s a mind game to stay focus and aim at the same spot every time because it doesn’t always hit the same spot.”

“I officially became a part of AW2 this year,” said Allen, who was medically retired after being shot during a training accident when another Soldier tried to clear his jammed weapon but misfired. The bullet entered the right side of Allen’s chest and stuck in his vertebrate, unable to be removed by doctors.

“If selected, I look forward to representing the Army,” Allen added. “Hopefully, I’ll be competing in the discus throw, shot put, wheelchair basketball, and rifle.”

The 2012 Warrior Games are hosted by the U.S. Olympic Committee and supported by the U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, USO, Fisher House Foundation, and the Bob Woodruff Foundation.

“Even if these athletes don’t make the U.S Army Warrior Games team, I expect everyone to take what they’ve learned back to their units,” Day added. “They are now the subject matter experts in the shooting field.”

Wounded Warrior’s Archery Hopes Fulfilled by a Community Worlds Away

SSG Jorge Haddock-Santiago, (L) and Scott Dault, owner of Crossroads Archery, work to adjust a compound bow set-up donated to Haddock-Santiago through donations from the archery community and private organizations. (Photos by U.S. Army SSG Tracy J. Smith)

By SSG Tracy J. Smith, Fort Stewart, Georgia WTB
It was 2004 when SSG Jorge G. Haddock-Santiago made his first trek halfway around the world, marking the first of numerous deployments.  With each combat tour, he suffered some form of injury that, in 2009, would leave the seasoned combat artilleryman unfit for continuation of active service.

Haddock-Santiago resigned to dedicate himself to the new mission of a transitioning Soldier—s to heal and transition back to active service or continue to serve the nation as a Veteran in my community.’

“I racked up a total of six deployments,” Haddock-Santiago said with a thoughtful look in his eyes. “The worst thing that ever happened to me wasn’t so much the physical injuries—it was losing my friends.”

The scars of loss are the hardest to bear for any Soldier especially carrying the guilt of ‘why not me?’

“I had so many things to work through,” he recalled, with a slight ever-present tremor in his hands.  “I have come a long way working through my post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and other anxieties associated with loss.”

Haddock-Santiago, a native of Puerto Rico, dreamed of a military career that would find him mentoring others.  As a young boy, his father introduced him to archery as a form of relaxation, patience, and focus. Upon his assignment to Bamberg, Germany’s Warrior Transition Battalion (WTB) he was reintroduced to archery as a part of the WTB adaptive sports program, never imagining the healing properties the sport would have.

When he was selected to try out for the Army’s 2012 Warrior Games archery team, Haddock-Santiago developed a renewed sense of purpose.  Again travelling halfway around the world to Sumter, South Carolina, he was ready to compete to be a part of the third annual Olympic-style games for U.S. military service men and women who have become wounded, ill, or injured.

“I am ready to give my best in memory of my guys because their loss is a burden I carry throughout my life,” he said.  “They were my mentors, and because of them I am alive.”

Retired SFC Steven Coleman, the U.S. Army Warrior Games archery coach, felt Haddock-Santiago’s chances for a spot on the team was strong. Unfortunately, opportunity can knock you down as quickly as you are lifted up.

“When military archers are sent this far it’s important that they come prepared,” Coleman explained about his clinic and the imperativeness of being on your ‘A-game.’  “His bow broke and the harsh reality is something like this can immediately end your chances to continue in a competition unless you are able to get that equipment repaired or replaced.”

To Haddock-Santiago it meant he had failed those he wished to honor, and he described how personal that failure was in one word-demoralized.

Soldiers are trained to be acutely responsive in tough situations, assessing then managing.

When it was suggested that a small archery shop in Summerton, South Carolina, , a 30-minute drive from the clinic grounds, may be able to fit him and his battle-buddy, SSG Albert ‘Al’ Louangketh, also a Bamberg WTB Soldier with a bow, they set off on a new mission not realizing another set of life-changing events were about to unfold.

Scott Dault, owner of the Crossroads Archery, was at his post with the same disarming smile that he has greeted customers with for more than 30 years.

“I could tell the young man was upset when he got me on the phone,” Dault recalled. “We just didn’t realize how much it meant to him to be here and how far he had travelled until I talked to him and his buddy Al filled me in a bit when they got here.”

Haddock-Santiago confirmed to his leadership in Germany that he found a bow but it may be a bit out of his budget.  His First Sergeant reassured him that Haddock-Santiago should not worry about it adding, “My First Sergeant went one step further and volunteered to pay for it out of his own pocket.”

What the 17-year career Veteran did not realize was his benefits were manifesting before he had even arrived at the little shop in Summerton. Dault, along with his wife Kim, began contacting local archery clubs in the area before the two combat Veterans arrived.

“I got in touch with the president of Bowhunters of South Carolina] David Shull, and the president of Swamp Fox Archers, and they started a ripple effect reaching out to the local South Carolina archery organizations,” Dault said.  “Within minutes we had the okay and were able to get Jorge fixed up.”

A customer who frequented Crossroads Archery, Bob Vaden, was so moved by the Soldier’s indomitable spirit and Dault’s determination and this fledgling brotherhood of archers that he reached in his pocket to make a personal donation.

“We look at our lives and know we owe a lot to good folks like Jorge and Al,” Dault said of Vaden’s gift.

Haddock-Santiago was the recipient an $1,100 archery setup courtesy of the Daults and his brotherhood of archers but the group’s altruism did not stop there as the man who traveled half-way around the world has sparked a new opportunity for an unlikely partnership.

“This is about rebuilding their lives,” Coleman added.  “These Soldiers and Veterans have given so much as our true one-percenters and this is one of the most therapeutic gifts any of them can be given to rebuild focus, patience and self-confidence.”

SSG Jorge Haddock-Santiago, (R), a combat Veteran and U.S. Army 2012 Warrior Games archery coach, retired SFC Steven Coleman, work to repair Haddock-Santiago's compound bow during the initial archery preparation and selection clinic. (Photos by U.S. Army SSG Tracy J. Smith)

The curative benefits also match WTC’s mission of providing viable adaptive sports opportunity for the severely injured. Archery’s versatility allows those with severe disabilities to enjoy the benefits using special tactile equipment such as mouth-tabs for those with upper body strength issues or prosthetics and an upright aiming device to assist blind archers.

Dault’s band of archers has donated archery equipment to five additional wounded Soldiers since that momentous day in late January.  The gift of a bow set-up can mark a new beginning for many of these Veterans and Soldiers.  Although there will be therapeutic benefits knowing someone cares is the most important benefit. This is all due to an encounter born of misfortune and donations from caring communities’ worlds away from the chaos of the battlefield.

“I was never in the military but my dad was a U.S. Air Force pilot,” Dault said describing the importance of what their mission was becoming. “My first employee worked for me while he was in high school and in college joined the South Carolina National Guard. He was deployed a few times and is now a Major.”

Dault chuckles at the last statement and looks around at the mounted trophies and spoils of the hunt that hang around his internationally known shed-shop he deems a ‘one-horse-operation.’

He cannot help but fondly reminisce about the man that he says “types like he talks” and looks forward to seeing his friend when he again travels halfway around the world in March for the next archery-training clinic.

Warrior Games Army Track and Field Athletes Take the Road to the Qualification Clinics

SSG Krisell Creager-Lumpkins, Warrior Transition Unit (WTU), Fort Carson and SPC Jasmine Perry from Warrior Transition Battalion (WTB), Fort Campbell along with more than 70 other wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers and Veterans participated in the largest adaptive and reconditioning clinic hosted by the WTC at Fort Meade’s Mullins Field on March 8. Photo credit: retired LTC Sue Bozgoz

By LTC Jeanette Griffin, WTC Stratcom
On Thursday, March 8, unseasonably warm weather conditions accompanied the first day of competition for more than 45 wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers and Veterans that participated in the track and field portion of the Warrior Transition Command’s (WTC) largest adaptive sports and reconditioning clinic at Fort Meade’s Mullins Field.  Athletes practiced and competed in the 100 meter, 200 meter, and 1500 meter dash track events, shot put, and discus field events in preparation for qualification rounds planned on March 10-11.

 “The first track and field clinic focused on timing each individual, capturing their biomechanics, and analyzing their athletic capabilities,” said track and field coach retired LTC Sue Bozgoz. “I made note of each individual athlete’s God given talent, then provided them with information on how to improve their performance prior to the final clinic.”

Track runners demonstrated that they had practiced and improved their running times, since the first clinic. Likewise, shot put and discus athletes showed that they had improved their form, technique, and ability to throw the shot put and discus.

“Thursday’s practice for athletes competing in the 100 meter and 200 meter dash included an 800 meter warm up, 4×50 meter sprints with 100 meter rest, followed by an 800 meter cool down,” said Bozgoz.  “Athletes competing in the 1500 meter ran a one mile warm up, 800 meter blow out, and a one mile cool down.” This was just the right amount of training to prepare for the weekend of competition and qualifications.

Warrior Games returning athlete, SPC Jasmine Perry, a Soldier assigned to the Warrior Transition Unit at Fort Campbell, who won gold in the shot put event during the 2011 Warrior Games is very excited about competing in track and field and swimming.  “I believe that this year’s events are more competitive,” said Perry, “I hope to do my best and be selected to represent the Army during the 2012 Warrior Games.”

SPC Jasmine Perry from WTB Fort Campbell prepares to throw the shot put during a recent track and field competition. Perry won gold during the 2011 Warrior Games shot put field event and hopes to earn a spot on the Army’s 2012 Warrior Games team. Photo credit: LTC Jeanette Griffin, WTC Stratcom

“As a coach, my goal is to bring out a runner’s God given potential by giving them the tools they need to perform at their best,” said Bozgoz. “I am excited about the track and field qualifications. My greatest joy as a coach is helping runners reach the finish line.”  

At the Warrior Games, athletes from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Special Operations will compete for the gold in archery, cycling, wheelchair basketball, shooting, swimming, track and field, and sitting volleyball.

“The planning and coordination for this event has gone well,” said SGT Brice Hamilton, of the Warrior Transition Command, Adaptive Sports and Reconditioning Branch.  “We were fortunate to have the assistance of the WTU, Fort Meade to assist with transportation of personnel and equipment and students from Defense Information School to assist as photographers, videographers, and timekeepers.”

After the competitions, athletes paused for a few moments to cool down, relax their nerves, and take a few minutes to reflect on the accomplishments made on the track and field.

The day ended with laughter, horse play, and all of the details on how the athletes received their scrapes and bruises. 

We had quite a day in the track and field competitions.

Wounded, Ill, and Injured Soldiers Compete for a Spot on Warrior Games Team


Wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers and Veterans arrive at Fort Meade to compete for spots on the Army’s 2012 Warrior Games team.

For the next five days, athletes will train in swimming, cycling, sitting volleyball, and track and field to prepare them for timed trials that will be used to select the Army’s team for the third annual Warrior Games.

Warrior Games draws wounded, ill, and injured athletes from the Army, Marines, Navy/Coast Guard, Air Force, and Special Operations to compete in archery, cycling, wheelchair basketball, shooting, swimming, track and field, and sitting volleyball.

SSG Krissell Kreager-Lumpkins has been in the Army 11 years and was injured falling off a Utah mountain during combat training operations.  She has been through several surgeries and will most likely undergo more as she recovers from injuries to her head, back, and neck.

At 27 years old, Kreager-Lumpkins is a first-time competitor for this year’s games; however, she was inspired to try out for the team while encouraging another Soldier during last year’s swimming event.  “Last year I didn’t know if I’d be able to walk,” Kreager-Lumpkins said, “I told my squad leader that I would be swimming in this year’s games.  I want to show others that there is life beyond injury”

LTC Keith Williams, WTC Adaptive Sports and Recondition Branch Chief, is responsible for arranging more than 10 clinics to prepare wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers and Veterans to represent the Army at the games.  As adaptive sports programs begin to grow at the 29 Warrior Transition Units- link to page (WTUs) throughout the Army, he has seen the positive impact these activities have on recovering Soldiers.

“There is no doubt that a Soldier engaged in a sport or other physical activity recovers more quickly,” said Williams. “The Warrior Games provides our wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers an opportunity to test themselves and regain both confidence and abilities that they may have thought were lost.”

The clinic will conclude with a final ceremony on Monday with WTC Commander BG Darryl Williams, congratulating clinic participants and recognizing finalists.

WTC plans to announce the 50 Soldiers and Veterans who will represent the Army on March 26. The games will take place beginning April 30 at the Olympic Training Center and Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

CBWTU-FL Soldiers Celebrate NBA All-Star Weekend and Celebrate Black History Month with Legends of Basketball

Six wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers and Veterans from Community-Based Warrior Transition Unit-Florida (CBWTU-FL) along with SGT Brice Hamilton (WTC) pose with retired NBA player Dikembe Mutombo during the National Basketball Retired Players Association's (NBRPA) Legends Celebration in Orlando, Florida.

By LTC Jeanette Griffin, WTC STRATCOM
During All-Star weekend, six wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers and Veterans  from Community-Based Warrior Transition Unit-Florida  (CBWTU-FL) were invited to take part in the National Basketball Retired Players Association’s (NBRPA) Legends Celebration at the Walt Disney Swan Resort, in Orlando, Florida.

The Soldiers were invited to several events; the welcome reception, the Hardwood Pioneers Reflect discussion panel, a fashion show, and other events.

The festivities kicked off on Friday, February 24, with a reception where Soldiers mingled with guests, enjoyed a variety of food, got autographs, and took photos with NBA legends and celebrities.

“These are memories of a lifetime” said SFC Harrison Waithaka, a Soldier assigned to CBWTU-FL, who sustained injuries to his back, shoulder, and stomach from a fall after exiting a helicopter in Iraq. “We are very appreciative of the Warrior Transition Command for coordinating CBWTU-FL’s participation in this event.”

CBWTU-FL Soldiers were given the red carpet treatment. Cameras clicked continuously as Soldiers, took a multitude of photos with various NBA legends, WNBA players, and celebrities.

“They enjoyed a day full of notable NBA retired players—Julius “Dr. J” Erving, Erving “Magic” Johnson, Dominique Wilkins, and David Robinson” said SGT Brice Hamilton, who serves in WTC’s Adaptive Reconditioning Branch.

Five wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers from the Community-Based Warrior Transition Unit-Florida (CBWTU-FL) pose with Women’s Basketball League (WBL) Women's Pro Legend (Susan Summons) pictured middle and (Kiara Redman) her personal assistant during the National Basketball Retired Players Association's (NBRPA) Legends Celebration in Orlando, Florida.

Coach Charlie Hatcher, co –host of Sports Inside and Out radio show, legendWali Jones, and Women’s Basketball League (WBL) legend Susan Summons hosted a live radio broadcast that included interviews with retired NBA legends Dale Ellis of the Boston Celtics, Lucius Allen of the LA Lakers,  and Dick Barnett of the New York Jets.

Later that evening, when I did not think that the events could get any better, the Soldiers were able to participate in the Hardwood Pioneers Reflect discussion panel, where NBRPA paid tribute to its members and discussed the impact African Americans have on the game of basketball as part of the celebration of Black History month.  Panelist included NBA legends Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Julius Erving, Earl Lloyd the first African American to ever play in an NBA game, and Dr. Richard A. Lapchick.

“The NBRPA Legends All-Star Celebration was amazing,” said Summons. “It’s so important to remember the sacrifice that former professional players made that are now legends of the game and sport, both men and women.”

“Our servicemen and servicewomen have made sacrifices to keep America safe.” I was honored to be a member of the U.S. Army, and I am proud to be a part of the historical movement of sports legends that have helped to pave the way for future sports legends” said Summons. “The history of sports gives you a look into the future of sports.” Summons added. “Remember and recognize the history and the women and men who helped to create it.”

Soldiers sat stage-side at the fashion show and met celebrities in the Legends VIP Lounge.

The next day, Soldiers went to the NBA All-Star Jam Session where they took part in interactive basketball activities, skill challenges, and autograph signing sessions with NBA players and legends.

“The Soldiers were the celebrities,” said Hamilton.  “Many of them stated that last night was one of their best experiences ever.”

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