WTB Soldiers find recovery through competition
October 5, 2012
GRAFENWOEHR, Germany -- Staff Sgt. Joseph Walker has been part of the Warrior Transition Battalion-Europe for a little over a year, rehabilitating a litany of injuries from traumatic brain injury to severe back and joint pain.
"I've been blown up 14 times by IED's," said the U.S. Army Garrison Baumholder Soldier. "But that doesn't stop me from competing."
Walker and his fellow A Company Soldiers joined other battalion Soldiers, Oct. 4, for a bike race on the Grafenwoehr Training Area, the second leg in a four-part adaptive sports competition that pits the battalion's three companies against each other as they vie for the coveted Commander's Cup.
After narrowly losing to C Co. in September, Walker is battling once again, bringing new strategies and a bout of revenge to the competition.
"We lost by one point!" he said grimacing. "We're here today with vengeance."
However, for these transitioning Soldiers, cycling competitions aren't always "as easy as riding a bike."
"It sounds easy until you count all of the health issues," said Walker.
For many Soldiers, adapting and finding strength with their new physical limitations helps with the transition.
Due to a recent shoulder injury, Sgt. Michael George, A Co., USAG Baumholder, is unable to ride an upright bike, but adapts by riding a recumbent cycle, an experience he found "more than challenging."
"You're pulling your body weight rather than pushing," said George. "It's all in the legs."
Despite his reservations, George pedaled past the finish line in first place, traveling 10 kilometers in just over 26 minutes.
"I just kept pushing until I couldn't push anymore," said George of his victory.
The physical activity surrounding the Commander's Cup is part of an all encompassing recovery of mind, body and spirit, according to Lt. Col. Douglas Galuszka, battalion commander.
"The goal is to have a goal, to achieve something through dedication," said Galuszka. "All of these Soldiers are building towards something."
Galuszka explained that WTB Soldiers suffer from an array of afflictions, from physical injuries procured downrange to illnesses like cancer. And while the activities are all tailored to the capabilities of each Soldier, for many, including Sgt. Daniel Penvose, D Co., USAG Grafenwoehr, the competition is meek in comparison to the camaraderie of this unique battalion.
"That's what I'll miss most about the Army," said Penvose, "that peer-to-peer support."
Penbose explained that WTB Soldiers share a strong bond.
"We are all battling something," said Penvose. "I can't always help myself, but someone out there can. And I know I can help someone when they can't help themselves. We support each other."
Unable to participate himself, Spc. Phillip Ferguson projected this support as he cheered on Penbose who pedaled 20 kilometers and crossed the finish line in 51 minutes, 8 seconds.
"We're just doing what Delta does," said Ferguson, with the prospect of victory lurking in the back of his mind.
As the bike race came to a close, C Co. continued its firm grasp on the cup, winning this round of competition by a landslide. A and D companies, however, will have two more chances to gain some ground during wheelchair basketball and seated volleyball, slated for the next two months.
It's still anyone's game, for now.