By Yvettte Smith, Courier staffApril 4, 2014
More than 40 Soldiers and Veterans from the Fort Campbell Warrior Transition Battalion are participating in the Army's Warrior Games unit-level selection trials, which began Monday and runs through Friday on post.
"Soldiers from the [WTB] were invited to come out and give the events a try," said Rebecca Murphy, WTB's Adaptive Reconditioning Program manager. "For many Soldiers, [becoming a Wounded Warrior] can be a big blow to the ego, so for them to be able to come out and do this, and say -- 'you know what, I can still participate, I can still be competitive with my fellow Soldiers?' -- that, to me, is what this is all about."
The Paralympic-style competition was created by the U.S. Olympic Committee in 2010, in partnership with the Department of Defense, to allow wounded, injured and ill service members and Veterans from all military branches to compete against one another in seven events. This year's Warrior Games includes track and field, air rifle/pistol, cycling, archery, swimming, wheelchair basketball and sitting volleyball.
The Soldiers and Veterans selected during the unit-level trials will then join Soldiers from Fort Stewart, Fort Benning and Fort Gordon, Ga., for the regional trials at Fort Campbell April 14-17.
Active duty Soldiers and Veterans who meet the following criteria are eligible for the regional trials: permanent physical disabilities such as amputations, spinal cord injuries, visual impairments or permanent limb dysfunction as well as non-permanent injuries such as post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injuries or orthopedic injuries.
Veterans may sign up by Monday for the upcoming regional trials. For more information, contact (270) 956-4200. The trials are open to the public.
Assisting the WTB with this year's track and field trials Tuesday was the Austin Peay State University track and field staff.
"Many of the sports we are doing this week are part of the schedule for the adaptive reconditioning program, while others are new for us like track and field," said Murphy. "We are very fortunate to have the assistance of Doug Molnar, the Austin Peay track and field head coach, who is the subject matter expert when it comes to running track and field meets."
The APSU staff helped Soldiers and Veterans familiarize themselves with each track and field event during the unit selection trials, as well as conduct the selection trials for those events. The staff will also provide assistance during the upcoming regional trials.
Specialist Chassitty Barker, Company A, WTB, heard about the Warrior Games through her unit and immediately signed up. Barker participated in the track and field trials Tuesday and also plans to participate in the cycling and sitting volleyball trials.
"I feel really good about being able to do this," said Barker after participating in two of the track and field events. "So far, I did better than I expected. It made me feel like I could still be good at something with other people that are at my level versus trying to compete with people that are totally fit. Having other people out here like me kind of makes me feel equal."
Once trials end, selected participants will form the official, 40-person Army team and then head to Fort Carson, Colo., to compete in the 2014 Warrior Games, Sept. 28-Oct. 4 at the U.S. Olympic Training Center and U.S. Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, Colo. There, Army athletes will compete against Marines Corps, Navy/Coast Guard, Air Force, Special Operations Command and United Kingdom teams.
More than 200 wounded, ill and injured service members and Veterans are expected to participate in seven sports (archery, cycling, shooting, sitting volleyball, swimming, track and field and wheelchair basketball) over six days.
For the last four years, the Marine Corps team has taken top honors, winning the Chairman?'s Cup, which is awarded to the team with highest overall points in competition. The Army was awarded silver last year.
As the Fort Campbell participants finish the early stages of trials, they hope to move on and perhaps help Army reach gold at this year's games.
"They've been talking about it for a little while, talking a little smack to each other, talking about how they are going to throw the shot put further or run faster," said Murphy. "It is so good for them to be out here, compare stories and to see the challenges others are going through and that they're still here, competing and having a good time. That's really what this is all about."