By Rick Musselman, Belvoir Eagle Sports EditorFebruary 28, 2014
Fort Belvoir, Va. (Feb. 27, 2014) - Eight Warrior Transition Battalion Soldiers from Fort Belvoir and Walter Reed National Military Medical Center honed their skills in the first wave of adaptive archery training clinics Feb. 19 at Belvoir's Archery Center.
The clinic provided the participants an opportunity to develop the skills that might ultimately enable them to qualify for a slot on the U.S. Army team competing at the 5th annual Warrior Games, Sept. 28-Oct. 4, at the U.S. Olympic Training Center and the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo.
The Warrior Games is a major athletic event that showcases the resilient spirit of today's wounded, ill and injured servicemembers from all branches of the military. After overcoming significant physical and behavioral injuries, these men and women demonstrate the power of ability over disability and the spirit of competition, according to U.S. Army Warrior Transition Command.
The athletes arrived at Fort Belvoir last week to participate in the training program designed to build each candidate's accuracy and endurance in order to determine their ability to manage the physical and mental stresses required to be successful at the Warrior Games.
According to Paul Vogel, master archery instructor, this preliminary training is intended to introduce servicemembers to the sport, highlight safety and teach the basic skills of archery using recurve and compound bows.
Archers spent the session learning the proper ways to handle archery tackle, aiming and release techniques, scoring formats, and safely retrieving arrows from the targets downrange,
Steve Smutak, Fort Belvoir WTB adaptive sports director, said the WTB athletes will progress through many of these clinics throughout the spring and summer and will study the sport with some of the ablest master archery instructors in the country.
"These servicemembers will continue to train in these clinics up until the final Warrior Games team selections are made, and it happens that we have nine active master instructors here at Belvoir," he said.
"There are 77 master instructors, total, in the entire country," Vogel added.
Once they have thoroughly learned the craft, athletes will move into the qualifying rounds that will result in the formation of the Army's official archery team that will take on the armed forces' best in Colorado Springs.
"The qualifying events are like an endurance race to see who can maintain scoring over the course of four FITA 600-rounds," said Master Sgt. Jarrett J. Jongema, noncommissioned officer-in-charge, Adaptive Sports and Reconditioning branch, Warrior Transition Command, during last year's qualifiers. "They shoot six arrows, 10 times per round, and they do that twice in one day for a total of 240 arrows -- and that's with an average 60-pound draw pull."
Jongema added that, on the last day of the qualifying event, the archers will compete in the same conditions they will face at the actual Warrior Games.
"Qualifiers mirror the Warrior Games scoring format. They'll get a little bit of a chance to practice -- firing about 10 arrows -- then they will fire a FITA 600, followed by a FITA 300, which is half the arrows, to make the finals," he said. "Then they will be randomly paired up into two or three-person teams to replicate the event that happens at the Warrior Games, where you stand shoulder to shoulder and each fires one arrow. This is to let the athletes see what it's like to fire right next to each other, because it's very hard to shoot shoulder to shoulder."
Making the Warrior Games team is one of the highest achievements a servicemember can make, and each athlete brings to the qualifying clinics hours of prior practice and preparation, as well as competitive drive and determination to secure a slot on the distinguished roster.
"Each Warrior Transition Unit has adaptive reconditioning programs, so there are a lot of different types of activities, like archery, shooting and swimming, and they all like to compete against each other," said Emily Anderson, marketing specialist, Strategic Communications Division, WTC in 2013. "These servicemembers take this very seriously."
Anderson explained that the Warrior Games represent not only a pinnacle of athletic competition but also an important ingredient of the reconditioning and recovery process for injured servicemembers.
"They are doing (many) different sports in addition to training for the Warrior Games and they know it's tough," she said. "We had a Soldier who sat around at home, often depressed, but when he found out about the adaptive program and the Warrior Games, he said, ?'Oh wow!' and became a sitting shot put athlete. We have stellar performers who really want to show that these servicemembers, even though they were injured, are still resilient; they're still capable of getting out here and doing the things anyone else can."
Since 2010, nearly 200 wounded, ill, and injured servicemembers and veterans have competed annually at the Warrior Games, a unique partnership between the Department of Defense and U.S. Olympic Committee's Paralympics Military Program. Athletes compete in sitting volleyball, wheelchair basketball, swimming, cycling, track and field, archery and competitive shooting. Gold, silver and bronze medals are awarded to the athletes or team members who place 1st, 2nd and 3rd in their respective events.
For additional information regarding the Warrior Games and the WTC's adaptive sports and reconditioning programs, visit www.wtc.army.mil.