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NCOs, enlisted excel in 2015 sporting events worldwide

Compiled by DAVID VERGUN
Army News Service

This year was a great one for Army athletes. Here are just some of the highlights:

Army Ten-Miler

Soldiers and teammates Paul Chelimo and Nicholas Kipruto finish the Army Ten-Miler at 48:19 with Chelimo winning by seconds. Their teammate Shadrack Kipchirchir took third, Oct. 11, 2015, near the Pentagon in Arlington, Va. (Photo by Shannon Collins / U.S. Army)
Soldiers and teammates Paul Chelimo and Nicholas Kipruto finish the Army Ten-Miler at 48:19 with Chelimo winning by seconds. Their teammate Shadrack Kipchirchir took third, Oct. 11, 2015, near the Pentagon in Arlington, Va. (Photo by Shannon Collins / U.S. Army)

Pfc. Paul Chelimo, a Kenyan native, led his fellow Soldiers to take the top five male individual spots during the 31st anniversary of the Army Ten-Miler, Oct. 11.

Chelimo placed first with a time of 48:19, beating his time of 51 minutes from last year’s race, when he finished in 30th place.

The member of the Army’s World Class Athlete Program, or WCAP, said he wouldn’t have won without the help of his teammates.

“They’re the reason I made it from 30th to first this year,” he said, adding he’s happy he finished his race season on a win and will be concentrating now on the Olympic trials in July.

“I love the United States, and I want to represent the Army in the Olympics,” he said.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley said that throughout the last 31 years, the Army Ten-Miler has attracted 344,000 runners total. While the 2015 run had more than 30,000 competitors, the first race, back in 1985, had only 1,615.

The general also noted that some 100 wounded warriors, on various types of bicycles, “are leading the race.”

DOD Warrior Games

The Army ruled almost every category on its way to grabbing the Chairman’s Cup for the second straight year at the 2015 Department of Defense Warrior Games held on Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, the last week of June.

“That very first event, cycling, is what really brought this team together,” said Sgt. 1st Class Keoki Smythe, the noncommissioned officer in charge at the Alexandria-based Warrior Transition Command.

“Then our track athletes and swimmers gave us a huge lead and our archery team had a gold medal sweep,” the Seattle native said.

Other events included wheelchair basketball, sitting volleyball and shooting.

Begun in 2010 to test — and showcase — the resilience and adaptability of combat-wounded, ill and injured Soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and coast guardsmen, the first games were dominated by the Marine Corps before the Army surged to a victory last year.

This time, it was a Soldiers’ competition from start to finish as the Army notched 69 gold medals to the Marines’ 47.

The Army out medaled all competitors in the silver and bronze categories as well, rolling to 141 points for the Chairman’s Cup over the Marine Corps’ 96. The Air Force, with 65 points total, finished next. The British Armed Forces had 62 points, Special Operations Command had 34 and the Navy/Coast Guard team finished with 30.

Led by team captain Frank Barroqueiro and assistant team captain Samantha Goldenstein, the Army was presented with the monster-sized Chairman’s Cup by Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and former Army chief of staff.

In a touch of friendly rivalry, the Army beat a Marine Corps contingent in the presence of the hosts’ service chief, then Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Joseph Dunford. Like Dempsey before him, Dunford was to ascend to the chairman’s job.

But Dunford was quick to minimize the competition piece in favor of underscoring the healing power and heartfelt nurture brought to bear through the athletes’ families, friends, physical therapists and other caregivers — many of whom were in the bleachers for the closing ceremonies.

Smythe also alluded to an almost spiritual intangible that superseded scores, times and photo finishes.

“Truly, it is an honor. I feel very fortunate just to be around these Soldiers, the way they support each other,” he said.

World Games

Team USA athletes who marched into the closing ceremony of the 6th Military World Games in Mungyeong, South Korea, Oct. 11, proudly wore 17 medals earned in competition against more than 100 nations.

Eight of those medals were earned by wounded warriors who competed for the first time in the Conseil International du Sport Militaire, or CISM, World Games. Although para-athletics and para-archery were deemed demonstration sports for their debut in the games, no difference from other award ceremonies could be seen in the stadium.

During the ceremonies, troops from all nations saluted as the stars and stripes were raised and the sound of the national anthem filled the venue. USA’s Chief of Delegation Steven Dinote said he was extremely proud of the para-athletes, who earned medals in every one of the sports they entered.

All of the USA athletes represented the Department of Defense and the United States well, Dinote said. “They are Soldiers, Marines, sailors, airmen and coast guardsmen first and foremost, yet they have the extraordinary ability to reach such an elite level and perform on the world stage in an event that is second only to the Olympic Games,” he said.

The CISM World Games are held every four years, one year before the Olympic Summer Games. This year, Team USA won gold in women’s sailing and formation skydiving, as well as silver in Greco-Roman wrestling. The women’s golf team earned a silver medal, the men’s golf team earned bronze, and USA women earned a bronze team medal in the marathon.

The 2015 CISM Military World Games was one of the largest delegations that U.S. Armed Forces Sports sent overseas since the 1999 Games in Zagreb, Croatia, Dinote said. The total delegation size of 240 included 165 athletes, along with 75 coaches and staff, and medical teams.

“During the two weeks during the games, it was our mission to give them the experience of a lifetime and treat them all like the World-Class Athletes they are,” Dinote said.

Pan Am Games

WCAP Soldier-athletes won two gold, one silver and five bronze medals as members of Team USA at the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto.

The games ended July 19 after 17 days of competition between nearly 7,000 athletes representing all 41 nations of the Pan American Sports Organization, which includes the Caribbean, Latin America, North America and South America. The games featured 39 sports, including all 28 sports on the Olympic program. Team USA topped the medal chart in every category, leading all nations with 265 medals, including 103 gold, 81 silver and 81 bronze medals.

The Army also sent two coaches to the games. WCAP boxing coach Staff Sgt. Joseph Guzman helped lead Team USA boxers to five medals in the ring, and WCAP wrestling coach Shon Lewis, a retired staff sergeant and former All-Army and WCAP wrestler, helped lead Team USA to its best Greco-Roman performance at the Pan American Games in 30 years.

On the wrestling mat, three Soldiers led by Lewis won medals. Capt. Jon Anderson struck gold and two-time Olympian Sgt. Spenser Mango secured bronze to help Team USA win the Greco-Roman team title for the first time since 1985. WCAP Sgt. Whitney Conder won another gold medal in women’s freestyle wrestling. Sgt. Caylor Williams did not receive a medal but gained invaluable experience for the upcoming world championships.

“We came here to win medals and we were able to do that, so I’m just excited for the entire team,” Lewis said. “As we head to Las Vegas for the World Championships, this is an upbeat. We still have a lot of work to do, but I’m encouraged with how we performed.”

In men’s Modern Pentathlon — a sport that includes fencing, swimming, equestrian show jumping, cross-country running and laser pistol shooting all in one day — Spc. Nathan Schrimsher earned a berth in the 2016 Olympic Games with a bronze-medal performance.

On the track, Spc. Aron Rono won a silver medal and Spc. Shadrack Kipchirchir finished fourth in the men’s 10,000-meter run.

In shooting, WCAP Spc. Bryant Wallizer won a bronze medal in the 10-meter air rifle event. Sgt. Nickolaus Mowrer finished fifth in 50-meter free pistol and ninth in 10-meter air pistol.

3-Gun Championship

The Army’s action shooting team won the four-man team event for the second straight year and several individual first-place titles during the 2015 Rocky Mountain 3-Gun Championship at the National Rifle Association’s Whittington Center near Raton, New Mexico, Aug. 13-16.

“This type of match plays to our strengths with more difficult shots, a more difficult environment,” said Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Horner of the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit, or USAMU, who competed during his sixth year at the championship. “It went exactly as it was supposed to go — we won the team match and individual matches.”

First-place individual titles went to Horner in the Tactical Optics (Military) Division, Staff Sgt. Joel Turner in the Limited Sights (Military) Division, Sgt. Tyler Payne in the Open (Military) Division and Pfc. Katie Harris in the Lady Division.

Competitors shot three stages per day during the first three days of the four-day championship. Day four consisted of shoot-offs for individual divisions and the team event.

The U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit’s mission is competing in and winning national and international shooting competitions and advancing small-arms lethality to demonstrate Army marksmanship capability and enhance marksmanship effectiveness in combat. USAMU is part of the U.S. Army Accessions Brigade and Army Marketing and Research Group.

Armed Forces Rugby

The All-Army team won its third consecutive crown at the 2015 Armed Forces Rugby Sevens Championship Tournament at Infinity Park, Glendale, Colorado, home of the Glendale Raptors, one of the nation’s premier rugby clubs, Aug. 14-15.

The Soldiers went 5-0 against teams from the Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard in the Armed Forces division of the world-class Serevi RugbyTown Sevens Tournament, which also drew teams from across the United States, Canada, Mexico, Bermuda and the Bahamas.

Five All-Army players and their coach, Col. Mark Drown of the Utah Army National Guard, were named to the All-Armed Forces Team. Players included U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program, or WCAP ruggers Sgt. Mattie Tago of Fort Carson, Colorado, Spc. Faleniko Spino of Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, and Ohio Army National Guard Spc. Zach Forro.

“That’s the byproduct of a good group of guys,” said Drown, who tentatively plans to take the All-Armed Forces Team to a tournament in Victoria, Canada, next spring. “I feel like the caboose because the train definitely is the players, and when they do well, I get to ride along.”

The first-ever Armed Forces women’s rugby camp was also held in August at Fort Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania, culminating with the team playing in a USA City Sevens tournament in Philadelphia.

National Trophy Pistol Team

The Army’s Service Pistol Team won the National Trophy Pistol Team Match during the 2015 Civilian Marksmanship Program National Trophy Pistol Matches at Camp Perry, Ohio, July 12.

The winning U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit, or USAMU, team of Sgt. 1st Class Adam Sokolowski, Sgt 1st Class Patrick Franks, Staff Sgt. Lawrence Cleveland, Sgt. 1st Class Michael Gasser, and Sgt. Ryan Franks also won several individual matches, including the prestigious President’s 100 Trophy.

“I’m pretty pleased with the overall results,” said Sokolowski, a Yeagertown, Pennsylvania native and USAMU Service Pistol Team coach. “We are very proficient with the service pistol, and we have a lot of depth on that. I was confident going into [the match], we would dominate. We didn’t expect to win everything because there are a lot of great shooters here, but I’m pleased with how it turned out.”

The Army Pistol Team won the National Trophy Pistol Team Match with a total score of 1150-43X, defending the title of “Best in the Nation.” The “X” in the score denotes hitting an X-ring inside the bull’s-eye of a target. The X scores are used to break ties.

During the competition, Sgt. 1st Class Patrick Franks, of Henderson, Nevada, broke three national match records, bringing home the Military Police Corps Trophy, the General Mellon Trophy and the General Patton Trophy. His combined score of 588-28X set a third national record for the match.

Another Army Pistol Team member, Cleveland, won the National Trophy individual match, bringing home the General Custer Trophy with a score of 294-7X.

Although one of the less experienced Army Pistol Team members, Sgt. Ryan Franks won the prestigious President’s Pistol Match, earning the top spot on the President’s 100 competition. He also brought home the President’s Trophy with a total score of 392-15X.

Interservice Rifle Team

The U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit took first place at the 54th annual Interservice Rifle Team Championship. The Marine team came in second at the championships, held on Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, ending July 1.

During the competition, shooters from across the Department of Defense competed in a myriad of matches consisting of individual and team-scored shoots, varying from distances between 200 and 1,000 yards.

“These are all the best military shooters,” said Col. Timothy Parker, commanding officer of the Weapons Training Battalion. “Here we have all of the best military shooters in the United States, and they go against each other to see who [are] the best military shooters.”

Soldiers, with Army Reserve Team Anderson, won the Commanding General, Marine Corps Combat Development Command Team Match with a score of 1,767.

Armed Forces Soccer

All-Army beat Air Force 1-0 to capture the Armed Forces Soccer Championship after a week of competition at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California, May 20.

A goal by Pvt. Alan Ibarra Lepe, of Fort Irwin, California, put Army on the scoreboard 28 minutes into the first half of the final match. Good defensive play for the rest of the game helped Army clinch the title.

Overall, Army finished the tournament 3-1 in match games. The Air Force and Navy both ended up with a 2-2 record. The Marine Corps finished 1-3 with its only win coming early against the Army.

Along with crowning a service champion, this week’s soccer at Miramar also provided a venue for officials to evaluate individual performances and select members of the U.S. Armed Forces Men’s Soccer Team, said Steve Dinote of Armed Forces Sports.

Armed Forces Cross Country

The All-Army men swept the top six spots and the women claimed four of their top six positions as the black and gold dominated the 2015 Armed Forces Cross Country Championships at Flatirons Golf Course, Boulder, Colorado, Feb. 7.

The Army men’s dominance marked the first time in U.S. Armed Forces Cross Country history that a team has swept the top six spots, said Ken Polk, Armed Forces Sports program manager.

Army Reserve Pfc. Stanley Kebenei, of Fayetteville, Arkansas, won the men’s 12-kilometer race in 37 minutes, 28 seconds. Spc. Caroline Jepleting, of Landstuhl, Germany, won the women’s eight-kilometer race in 30:01.

Lookingn Ahead to Rio

So far this year, four Soldiers have qualified — and more are expected to qualify — for the Olympics, which will be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Aug. 5-21:

  • Sgt. 1st Class Keith Sanderson, Army WCAP – (Pistol)
  • Sgt. 1st Class Glenn Eller, Army Marksmanship Unit – Double Trap (Shotgun) Sgt. 1st Class Mike McPhail, Army Marksmanship Unit – Men’s 50-meter prone rifle
  • Spc. Nathaniel Schrimsher, Army WCAP, Modern Pentathlon More than 30 other Soldiers have a good shot at qualifying through Olympic trials this spring and summer.

This roundup was compiled from original reports by David Vergun, Keith Oliver, Gary Sheftick, Tim Hipps, Brenda Rolin, Sgt. 1st Class Raymond J. Piper and Sgt. Terry Brady

Team Army raises the Chairman's Cup trophy in celebration at the 2015 Department of Defense Warrior Games, June 28, 2015. The Army won the Chairman's Cup after earning 162 medals during the games, earning 141 points towards the Chairman's Cup competition. (Photo by Keith Oliver / U.S. Army)
Team Army raises the Chairman’s Cup trophy in celebration at the 2015 Department of Defense Warrior Games, June 28, 2015. The Army won the Chairman’s Cup after earning 162 medals during the games, earning 141 points towards the Chairman’s Cup competition. (Photo by Keith Oliver / U.S. Army)

Athletes on Army team remain confident as they prepare for Warrior Games

By MEGHAN PORTILLO
NCO Journal

Wounded warrior athletes on the Army team are more confident than ever that they will take home the Chairman’s Cup again this year at the conclusion of the Department of Defense Warrior Games, which will take place from June 19-28 at Marine Corps Base Quantico in Quantico, Va.

Sgt. 1st Class Michael Smith, a member of the Army team, swims laps during training for the 2014 Warrior Games at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Kaily Brown / U.S. Army)
Sgt. 1st Class Michael Smith, a member of the Army team, swims laps during training for the 2014 Warrior Games at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Kaily Brown / U.S. Army)

Sgt. 1st Class Michael Smith, who this year will compete in the games for the second time, said there is no doubt in his mind that the Army will leave the games again with the cup, which is awarded to the service branch with the highest medal total. “Last year was the first year that we won the Chairman’s Cup, so I’m definitely looking forward to competing against the other branches and bringing that trophy home again.”

Smith is among the 40 wounded, ill and injured Soldiers and veterans picked to defend the Army’s title against the Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, U.S. Special Operations Command and the British armed forces. The athletes were selected from about 75 veterans and active-duty Soldiers who competed in March during the Army Trials at Fort Bliss, Texas, in cycling, shooting, archery, track and field, wheelchair basketball, seated volleyball and swimming.

Smith, who will compete in swimming, track, field, cycling and sitting volleyball, said he speaks for the whole team when he says he is proud to have been selected.

“It means everything to me to represent the Army at the Warrior Games, because I believe in the Army. If it wasn’t for the Army, I wouldn’t be the type of man I am today. I wouldn’t be the father that I am today. I wouldn’t be the friend I am today. So to be able to represent something I truly believe in and love is an honor.”

This will be the first year that the games are hosted by a service branch instead of at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. Though the majority of the crowd in Quantico will be cheering on the Marine Corps, Smith said he and his teammates are not worried.

“That makes it that much sweeter – to beat them in their own house,” Smith said. “I can’t wait to smash them again and look them in the eyes and tell them that we beat them on their home turf. I’m looking forward to that.”

Recovery through sports

The athletes train for the games as part of the U.S. Army Warrior Transition Command’s  Army Warrior Care and Transition program, which aids in the recovery of wounded, ill and injured Soldiers and veterans as they prepare themselves for life back in the force or as civilians.

Smith retrieves a volleyball during practice for the 2014 Warrior Games at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. (Photo by Spc. Charles M. Bailey / U.S. Army)
Smith retrieves a volleyball during practice for the 2014 Warrior Games at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. (Photo by Spc. Charles M. Bailey / U.S. Army)

Smith is the first Soldier with an above-the-elbow amputation to remain on active duty, and he credits the sports program for his success.

In 2011, Smith’s motorcycle was rear-ended. He flew over a freeway median, then was hit by an oncoming truck before crashing into the ground. He is blessed to be alive, Smith said, and is grateful for the opportunity to continue to serve.

“If it wasn’t for the Warrior Transition Command and the Warrior Games, and everything they provide, I wouldn’t be in the position I am in now,” Smith said.

In December, Smith began his duties as a recruiting center commander in Little Rock, Ark. He is in charge of 25 NCO recruiters, and said he is aware of how much they look up to him. He hopes that, through his example, they will see that an injury in no way lessens a leader’s influence.

“No matter your situation – whether it is physical, mental, emotional or whatever the case may be – Soldiers still look up to you,” Smith said. “If you are an NCO, a noncommissioned officer, you are still supposed to lead from the front – no matter what. That is my whole reason for coming back to active duty. I’m a leader. I’m a senior NCO. I didn’t make E7 by sleeping. The Army instilled in me the leadership skills that I have, and I want to continue to lead.”

Always striving for a new goal

Even after all Smith has accomplished, he has not stopped creating fresh goals for himself.

He hopes to one day work for the Warrior Transition Command to recruit other athletes, set up camps and motivate wounded warriors. He said he knows that if they can be inspired to give it their best, they will be competitive in their sports, in their recovery and in life.

“If you can learn to swim with one arm, learn to run with a prosthetic, if you can tackle that goal and defeat that, any other obstacle that comes your way in life, you are going to take that same approach, and just know that you can do it,” Smith said.

Smith is also still striving toward new goals as an athlete. He has been training to join the USA Skeleton Sled team, and is determined to take home the title of “Ultimate Warrior” from next year’s Warrior Games.

“I would have to place in every event they offer. It’s something I wanted to go for this year, but because I am working in recruiting, I didn’t have the ability to go to any shooting camps. Next year, that is definitely my goal. I will be the Ultimate Warrior next year. That’s what I’m going to do.”
Following is a list of athletes on the 2015 Army team. The list is subject to change. For more information and to view coach and team-member bios, click here.

·         Staff Sgt. Ashley Anderson, Fort Riley, Kan.

·         Spc. Anthony Atemon, Fort Bragg, N.C.

·         Staff Sgt. Thomas Ayers, Clarksville, Tenn.

·         Spc. Dustin Barr, Fort Bragg, N.C.

·         Capt. Frank Barroqueiro, Gainesville, Ga.

·         Capt. Steven Bortle, Pearl City, Hawaii

·         Spc. Terry Cartwright, Fort Belvoir, Va.

·         Spc. Laurel Cox, Fort Belvoir, Va.

·         Spc. Sydney Davis, Fort Belvoir, Va.

·         1st Lt. Kelly Elmlinger, Joint Base San Antonio

·         Staff Sgt. Randi Gavell, Oklahoma City, Okla.

·         Sgt. 1st Class Samantha Goldenstein, Saint Robert, Miss.

·         Sgt. Colton Harms, Fort Riley, Kan.

·         Sgt. Sean Hook, Summerville, S.C.

·         Sgt. Blake Johnson, Bethesda, Md.

·         Staff Sgt. Sean Johnson, Aberdeen, S.D.

·         Sgt. Kawaiola Nahale, Fort Shafter, Hawaii

·         Spc. Chasity Kuczer, Fort Knox, Ky.

·         Sgt. 1st Class Katie Kuiper, San Antonio, Texas

·         Spc. Stefan Leroy, Bethesda, Md.

·         Staff Sgt. Monica Martinez, Bethesda, Md.

·         Staff Sgt. Andrew McCaffrey, Arlington, Va.

·         Staff Sgt. Michael McPhall, Bethesda, Md.

·         Staff Sgt. Billy Meeks, Las Cruces, N.M.

·         Cpl. Mathew Mueller, Fort Carson, Colo.

·         Master Sgt. Rhoden Galloway, San Antonio, Texas

·         Staff Sgt. Eric Pardo, San Antonio, Texas

·         1st Lt. Christopher Parks, Fort Hood, Texas

·         Staff Sgt. Timothy Payne, Raleigh, N.C.

·         Cpl. Jasmine Perry, Fort Campbell, Ky.

·         Sgt. Zedrik Pitts, Birmingham, Ala.

·         Spc. Haywood Range, Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

·         Capt. Will Reynolds, Bethesda, Md.

·         Staff Sgt. Alexander Shaw, Clarksville, Tenn.

·         Chief Warrant Officer Timothy Sifuentes, Fort Riley, Kan.

·         Staff Sgt. Monica Southall, Henrico, Va.

·         Sgt. 1st Class Michael Smith, Little Rock, Ark

·         Sgt. Patrick Timmins, Colorado Springs, Colo.

·         Sgt. Nicholas Titman, Fort Carson, Colo.

·         Sgt. Ricardo Villalobos, Winston Salem, N.C.

Coaches and athletes huddle before basketball practice during the Army Trials at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas, on March 28, 2015. (Photo by EJ Hersom / DoD News)
Coaches and athletes huddle before basketball practice during the Army Trials at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas, on March 28, 2015. (Photo by EJ Hersom / DoD News)

Wounded Soldiers compete in Army Trials for a shot at the Warrior Games

By MEGHAN PORTILLO
NCO Journal
Retired Sgt. Scotty Hasting prepares for the archery event of the Army Trials on March 31 at Fort Bliss. (Photo by Meghan Portillo/NCO Journal)
Retired Sgt. Scotty Hasting prepares for the archery event of the Army Trials on March 31 at Fort Bliss. (Photo by Meghan Portillo/NCO Journal)

Retired Sgt. Scotty Hasting closed his eyes, blocking out the surrounding distractions. He took a deep breath and focused on the feel of the bow in his hand before opening his eyes and letting his arrow fly during the Army Trials on March 31 at Fort Bliss, Texas.

Hasting was one of about 75 active-duty Soldiers and veterans who competed from March 29 to April 2 in cycling, shooting, archery, track and field, wheelchair basketball, seated volleyball and swimming for spots on the Army team headed to the Department of Defense Warrior Games in June. Only 40 athletes will be selected to defend the Army’s title against the Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and Special Operations Command during the competition at Marine Corps Base Quantico in Quantico, Va.

The Marines won the Chairman’s Cup, presented to the top overall service branch, at the first four Warrior Games, but the Army took the cup for the first time in 2014.

“You know the Marine Corps makes a lot of noise, but we speak through performance,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Matthew T. Brady, command sergeant major for the Warrior Transition Command. “They’ll have home turf, but we look to keep our cup.”

Recovery through sports

The trials, conducted by the Warrior Transition Command, are part of the Army Warrior Care and Transition program, which aids in the recovery of wounded, ill and injured Soldiers and veterans as they transition back into the force or the civilian community.

Master Sgt. Shawn Vosburg, assigned to the WTB at Fort Bliss, takes aim during the rifle event of the Army Trials on March 30 at Fort Bliss. (Photo by Meghan Portillo/NCO Journal)
Master Sgt. Shawn Vosburg, assigned to the WTB at Fort Bliss, takes aim during the rifle event of the Army Trials on March 30 at Fort Bliss. (Photo by Meghan Portillo/NCO Journal)

“Our adaptive reconditioning program is a critical part of warriors’ transition,” Brady said. “It’s not just a sports program. It’s a program of activity in support of the surgeon general’s Performance Triad – sleep, proper nutrition and activity. For many of these Soldiers, this is kind of their ‘new norm’ – picking up activities they may have never tried before. It’s a new outlet. So if you look at the shooting, it takes concentration, the ability to block out distractions, a great amount of discipline – and these are all things that set you up for other tasks in life.”

In addition to aiding in their physical and mental recovery, these sports give Soldiers a new passion and something to look forward to doing when they leave the military, Brady said. Veterans Affairs and civilian organizations offer adaptive sports programs all over the nation, and sponsors often help defray the cost. Transition coordinators within every Warrior Transition Unit work to connect Soldiers with these organizations when they leave, Brady said, as should NCOs across the Army as they help injured and ill Soldiers prepare for life outside the military.

“We have them for maybe two years, but these Soldiers will be veterans for the rest of their lives,” Brady said. “We have got to set them up for success down the road.

“I hope NCOs realize I only have a certain number of these individuals in this Integrated Disability Evaluation System process — I only have a fraction of them. The majority of them are out in the force. They are out in the force and being led by NCOs, and as they go through the challenges of recovery, these same sports are available to them. What I need NCOs to do is to support this type of activity because that individual is going to leave our military, and we don’t want them becoming sedentary. We don’t want them leaving and feeling like they don’t have something to look forward to. I need NCOs’ support.”

Mentoring others

Spc. Sydney Davis, assigned to the Warrior Transition Battalion at Fort Belvoir, Va., prepares to throw the shotput during the Army Warrior Trials on April 1 at Fort Bliss.  (Photo by Meghan Portillo/NCO Journal)
Spc. Sydney Davis, assigned to the Warrior Transition Battalion at Fort Belvoir, Va., prepares to throw the shotput during the Army Warrior Trials on April 1 at Fort Bliss. (Photo by Meghan Portillo/NCO Journal)

Many of the NCOs leaving the Warrior Transition Battalion have found a new use for their leadership skills within civilian and veteran adaptive sports programs, Brady said.

“In the Army, we make leaders,” he said. “That’s just what we do. And these civilian organizations have individuals who grew up with challenges, were born with challenges or may have gotten it by the result of some kind of trauma. … Now, our Soldier is going to have the opportunity as a veteran to be in this same group with them and provide mentorship – they will be able to use those leadership skills to be a mentor to a young child, for example, who has never known what it is like to walk.”

Training for the Warrior Games has helped Hasting recover from the 10 gunshot wounds he suffered in Afghanistan – five in the shoulder and five in the hip – and he is eager to help others, he said, to overcome the challenges he knows too well.

“The NCO inside of me wants to help all these other people who are down,” Hasting said. “The values that are instilled in us as NCOs, the way that we are programmed – it’s not about us; it’s more about trying to help everyone else out.

“If you’re having troubles, I’ve been there. It’s hard to get back up and back at it. But it will work out better in the long run if you just get up and do something. As an NCO, I try to push that.”

If he is chosen for the team, this will be Hasting’s second year at the Warrior Games, and he said he seeks out opportunities to mentor others wanting to shoot competitively.

“Archery is my favorite – when everything else is going on, for the time that you are shooting, it’s just you and that bow,” he said. “Nothing else matters. That’s why I gravitate toward archery. It’s that outlet for me.”

A new normal

Sgt. Joshua Palmer can attest to the life-changing aspect of an adaptive sports program. For him, smaller injuries built upon one another, eventually leading to a debilitating condition that would end his military aspirations. During the Special Forces selection process, Palmer shattered his ankles and had to have both completely reconstructed.

Staff Sgt. Max Hasson, assigned to the WTB in Fort Carson, Colo., throws during the seated discus event of the Army Trials on April 1 at Fort Bliss. (Photo by Meghan Portillo/NCO Journal)
Staff Sgt. Max Hasson, assigned to the WTB in Fort Carson, Colo., throws during the seated discus event of the Army Trials on April 1 at Fort Bliss. (Photo by Meghan Portillo/NCO Journal)

“You never know what you’ve got until it’s gone,” he said. “When you spend eight months on bed rest, it’s a really humbling experience. If I wanted something to eat, I would literally have to low-crawl to the kitchen and sit on the floor by the fridge and eat an apple.”

Palmer had to accept that he could no longer be an engineer deep-sea diver. He would never join Special Forces. His career had come to a halt.

The adaptive sports program gave him his life back.

“I never thought I would be this active again,” he said. “Never.”

He went from not being able to walk to competing in almost every event of the Army Trials. The experience taught him a lot, he said, about the kind of leadership a Soldier needs while recovering. Encouragement is key, he said, but it is also important to not push an individual too far.

“If an NCO has a good Soldier who gets hurt, he or she needs to allow that Soldier time to recover,” he said. “Listen to him. Be genuine, and take the time to get to know him. Know his 100 percent, and then know his injury 100 percent. And be respectful of that, because you can hurt that Soldier in the long run if you push him to be too active.”

Palmer is retiring soon, but he said if he were going back into his field, he would take a more active role in his Soldiers’ health and well-being.

“I would be more involved,” Palmer said. “I would go with them to their initial appointments, follow up with their doctors. I’d get reports from their doctors on how they are doing, so that the way I talk to and encourage the Soldier is in-line with the doctor’s recommendations. I would be much more respectful and understanding of that Soldier’s recovery, because now I have been there.”

Sgt. Kawaiola Nahale, assigned to the 311th Signal Command, swims the 25-meter breaststroke during the Army Trials on April 2 at Fort Bliss, Texas. (Photo by Meghan Portillo/NCO Journal)
Sgt. Kawaiola Nahale, assigned to the 311th Signal Command, swims the 25-meter breaststroke during the Army Trials on April 2 at Fort Bliss, Texas. (Photo by Meghan Portillo/NCO Journal)