WTU Soldier hopes to make splash at Warrior Games
May 10, 2010
FORT POLK, La. (May 10, 2010) -- Spc. Trevor Mitchell loves swimming and always dreamed of competing at a high level. However, he never expected his deployment injury would provide him with an opportunity to achieve that dream.
Mitchell is one of 100 Army Warriors in Transition, and one of 200 wounded, ill or injured military athletes from the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and Coast Guard selected to compete in the inaugural Warrior Games to be held Monday through May 14 at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. The games are part of an effort to inspire recovery, capitalize on physical fitness and promote new opportunities for growth and achievement.
The Office of Secretary of Defense is providing leadership and support for the event, hosted by the U.S. Olympic Committee's Paralympics Military Program.
Eligibility includes servicemembers with upper and lower body injuries, spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain injuries and post traumatic stress disorder. Events include shooting, swimming, archery, volleyball, cycling, track, basketball, discus and shot put.
A cavalry scout by trade, Mitchell deployed to Baghdad with Fort Polk's 3rd Squadron, 89th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, where he served as a platoon radio-telephone operator. Over time, the stress of carrying about 100 extra pounds of gear in addition to his normal combat load multiple times a day took its toll on his right shoulder. Mitchell didn't think much about it at first, figuring it was due to the weight of the equipment, but his physical condition never improved.
Upon redeployment, and after an initial regimen of physical therapy, it was discovered that Mitchell required surgery to repair significant damage to his shoulder. Due to the lengthy recovery time involved, he was reassigned to the Fort Polk Warrior Transition Unit in June, 2009, to begin healing and preparing for his future transition back to the force.
Mitchell learned about the Warrior Games in January and applied to compete after receiving medical clearance from his doctor. He was notified of his selection in March. He was chosen to participate in three swimming events: 50-meter freestyle, 100-meter freestyle and 50-meter backstroke.
"This is a great opportunity to push myself to better physical conditioning, giving me more confidence that my shoulder will stand up under pressure," said Mitchell. "I never imagined that I'd be chosen. I'll be swimming against the clock and other competitors."
Mitchell has been training with Madison Guess, Fort Polk's aquatic director. "I've coached a lot of swimmers. His technique has improved greatly and he's really getting into shape," said Guess. Mitchell's training drills are done in a pyramid-type of instruction and he swims about 1,400 meters twice a day during his daily training sessions. "He's determined and I think he's going to be an excellent competitor at the games," said Guess.
In addition to his personal training schedule, Mitchell spends his weekends at the pool too, coaching the Fort Polk Child, Youth and School Services' youth swim team.
"Swimming is therapeutic," Mitchell said. "And coaching my girls and other post children is also a form of therapy and it's a great family bonding time. Although some of the children are young and don't swim well, this team gives them an opportunity to learn the strokes correctly and develop a love for swimming, and it's a sport they can enjoy all their lives. I started swimming at a young age at the local YMCA and look where it's taken me."
Recovering from any type of surgery is always difficult, according to Mitchell, but he said he's had a lot of support. "I've had a special recovery team -- my wife, Cheri, and my two daughters have kept me going. They've been there to get me through the hard times and it's strengthened us as a family," he said.
Unfortunately, Mitchell's wife and children won't be able to attend the games, but his mother, Charlene Schwenk, will travel from Tennessee to attend the closing ceremony.
"Even though my wife and kids won't physically be there, they'll still be with me," Mitchell said. "Hopefully, we'll have lots to celebrate when I get home. But no matter what happens at the games, win or lose, I've already won."
It is hopeful that the success of these games will serve as yet another positive example of how the Army takes care of its wounded, ill, and injured soldiers and their families.
"We've made enormous progress in our warrior care -- great facilities, great medical care and great support from the American people," said Brig. Gen. Gary Cheek, commanding general, U.S. Army Warrior Transition Command. "But it's not enough. What we have to do is inspire these Warriors to reach for and achieve a rich and productive future, to defeat their illness or injury, whatever lies in their way, to maximize their abilities and know that they can have a rich and fulfilling life beyond what has happened to them in service to their nation."