AW2 Soldiers Competing in Warrior Games Find Success by Continuing their Active Service

SGT Robert Price received Warrior Games marksmanship instruction at the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit, Fort Benning

SGT Robert Price received Warrior Games marksmanship instruction at the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit, Fort Benning

By Jim Wenzel, WTC Stratcom

 

Wounded Soldiers from across the country will soon be arriving at the Olympic Training Center (OTC) in Colorado Springs, CO, for the Warrior Games. Not content to simply overcome individual challenges of healing and recovery, these Soldiers are hungry to test themselves and represent the Army in the competitive arena. For some AW2 Soldiers, their participation reflects their desire to look forward to future goals and challenges beyond recovery. Many of them share a common goal—to continue on active duty in the Army (COAD), or Army Reserve (COAR).

SGT Robert Brown became an AW2 Soldier after sustaining injuries during enemy contact in Iraq that required the amputation of his right leg below the knee. He has been approved to continue his active career and is now a competitor in the Warrior Games. He will compete in the ‘Ultimate Warrior’ pentathlon and as a member of the Army 200 meter free swim relay team. His goal is to use the Games to test himself as he prepares for the U.S. Paralympic Games.

Wounded by shrapnel during Operation Iraqi Freedom, SGT Lilina Benning now spends many hours a week preparing for the compound bow portion of the archery event, the standing shot put, and as a member of the Army sitting volleyball team. She is an AW2 Soldier approved to COAD and feels strongly that her training for the upcoming Games helps as both physical and occupational therapy.

Also making the journey to Colorado will be SGT Robert Price. He was hit by an IED in January 2007 and the wound to his right leg required amputation below the knee. SGT Price is an AW2 COAD Soldier competing in the 10 meter air rifle (prone), archery (compound open), and sitting volleyball events. He has been actively shooting for three years and recently trained with the United States Army Marksmanship Unit at Fort Benning. Ultimately his goal is competing in the 2012 Paralympic Games.

In the face of adversity, these Soldiers have chosen to accept the challenge of top-level competition. Their selection to COAD and compete not only opens up the possibility of victory at the Games, but also future success through their active service and perhaps a journey that may lead some to the 2012 Paralympic Games in London.

Other AW2 COAD Soldiers going to Warrior Games include: WO1 Johnathan Holsey, SGT Michael Lukow, SFC Andrew McCaffrey, SSG Eric Moriarty, SFC Landon Ranker, and SSG Curtis Winston. For more information about eligibility and application to COAD/COAR go to the AW2 website here. To follow the May 10-14 Warrior Games, check the AW2 Blog often—our team will be blogging from the OTC all week!

Wounded Warriors from Walter Reed Ready to Fight For the Title of ‘Ultimate Warrior’

SGT Rob Brown practicing shot put

SGT Rob Brown practicing shot put

By Jim Wenzel, WTC Stratcom

 

SGT Robert “Rob” Laux and SGT Robert “Rob” Brown may be recuperating and healing from injuries they sustained in combat, but that won’t stop them from returning to battle with wounded warriors from the Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard at the 1st Annual Warrior Games to be held at the Olympic Training Center (OTC) in Colorado Springs, CO, on May 10–14, 2010.

SGT Laux and SGT Brown have chosen to compete in the “Ultimate Warrior”, a pentathlon consisting of two track events, 50 meter free swim, 10 meter air rifle, and shot put. Even though both will be competing for the Army team, the joking and conversation at shot and discus training Tuesday, April 20, demonstrated a fierce competitiveness that comes with the understanding that only one soldier, sailor, airman, or marine can be the Ultimate Warrior.

SGT Laux and SGT Brown’s training at Walter Reed Army Medical Center will soon wind down as competitors leave for the OTC on May 5, and begin the final stage of preparation at the far more demanding height of 7,000 feet above sea level. In the Walter Reed auditorium that afternoon, the athletes were reminded of the harsh role altitude will play by Charlie Hubner, Chief of Paralympics, U.S. Olympic Committee and leader of a delegation of Olympians and Paralympians from Beijing and Vancouver Games.

During the USOC presentation, the Warrior Games athletes previewed “Warrior Champions”, a movie about the inspiring story of four wounded Iraq war Veterans who overcame their injuries to compete at the 2008 Summer and 2010 Winter Paralympic Games. Melissa Stockwell, a U.S. Paralympic Team swimmer, and Heath Calhoun, a world-class U.S. Paralympic Team skier, also spoke about the power of healing through sports and their journey from rehabilitation at Walter Reed to the Olympic stage.

Heath, who was chosen to carry the U.S. flag at the Vancouver Opening Ceremonies, said during difficult periods of recovery, “50% of getting there is taking the first step.”

These powerful words of encouragement from former Soldiers who suffered combat-related injuries requiring the loss of one or both legs and went on to realize their dreams of Olympic competition could not have come at a better time for these Warrior Games athletes. Perhaps the Games will lead some of them down a similar path to the London Paralympic Games of 2012 or inspire them to achieve other life goals inside or outside of the sporting arena. Certainly for SGT Laux and SGT Brown it has steeled their resolve to become the Warrior Games 2010 Ultimate Warrior.

AW2 Veteran Participates in USA Hockey Disabled Festival

By Tania Meireles, WTC Stratcom

AW2 Veteran Joe Bowser playing hockey.

AW2 Veteran Joe Bowser playing hockey.

AW2 Veteran Joe Bowser is a member of the U.S. Stand-Up National Amputee Hockey Team, and he and his team participated in the USA Hockey Disabled Festival in Maryland recently. The Festival encompassed all four disciplines of disabled hockey, including deaf/hard of hearing hockey, special hockey, sled hockey, and standing/amputee hockey. A total of 50 teams competed in the event in nine divisions with athletes of all ages. I was able to ask him a few questions about his thoughts on the festival.

Who did your team play against? How was the game?

We played against the USA Warriors team made up of wounded warriors from Walter Reed Army Medical Center (WRAMC). It was a tough game, but our team [the National team] was able to overcome the Warriors. The Warriors played together really well—they are very talented. We also played against the Canadian Embassy Team, and the Canadians won that game by two.

Did other wounded warriors play hockey during the Festival?

The USA Warriors from WRAMC played the San Antonio Rampage [wounded warriors from Brooke Army Medical Center]. It was great to see these Soldiers play in this game and have fun. I think sports provide wounded warriors with great exercise and lets them see the things they can do instead of what they can’t do. Congrats to the Rampage for winning that game.

What other games did you enjoy seeing at the Festival?

It was really cool to see children and young adults with disabilities out there on the ice. I love seeing their excitement to go out there and utilize what they have—capitalize on their abilities. It is the same thing with us [wounded warriors]. I look forward to doing it again next year!

Watch the 2010 Paralympic Winter Games Highlights on NBC

AW2 Veteran Andy Soule skis to a bronze medal at the 2010 Paralympic Winter Games in Vancouver, Canada.

AW2 Veteran Andy Soule skis to a bronze medal at the 2010 Paralympic Winter Games in Vancouver, Canada.

By Sarah Greer, Stratcom

 

Tomorrow, NBC is broadcasting a highlights show of the 2010 Paralympic Winter Games from 3:30 – 5:00pm EST. As a big fan of the Olympics in general, I’m excited to see footage of the amazing American athletes from Vancouver.

During the show, I’ll particularly be watching for the two AW2 Veterans: Heath Calhoun and Andy Soule. You can read more about their experience on BG Gary Cheek’s blog for the Warrior Transition Command. Heath was elected by his teammates to carry the U.S. flag during the Opening Ceremony and competed in alpine skiing. Andy won America’s first medal of the Games, a bronze in the men’s sitting 2.4km pursuit biathlon.

I hope you will also tune in and enjoy the coverage.

AW2 Soldier Wins Adventurer of the Year Award

By Tania Meireles, WTC Stratcom

We would like to congratulate AW2 Soldier LTC Marc Hoffmeister for his recognition as a winner of National Geographic Adventure Magazine’s Adventurer of the Year Readers’ Choice Award. He received an amazing 20,000 votes to tie with another adventurer.

Hoffmeister was quoted as saying, “This goes beyond personal recognition. It’s what the team did to get up the mountain. I’m pretty humbled, let’s just put it that way.”

Hoffmeister will be interviewed by the DODLive Bloggers Roundtable about his achievements at 1 p.m. EST on March 18. Please visit http://www.blogtalkradio.com/bloggersroundtable/2010/03/18/us-army-bloggers-roundtable-adventurers-of-the-year to listen in.

In December, the AW2 Blog did a two part profile on Hoffmeister about his Operation Denali climb and his nomination as an Adventurer of the Year honoree by National Geographic Adventure Magazine.

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