By J.D. LeipoldNovember 21, 2014
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Nov. 21, 2014) -- In recognition of Warrior Care Month, Army Warrior Transition Command hosted its fourth annual Joint Services Sitting Volleyball Tournament yesterday, at the Pentagon Athletic Center.
Wounded warriors from the four services and U.S. Special Operations Command were cheered on by Pentagon workers as active-duty and medically retired Service members showcased their athleticism and competitiveness through the Military Adaptive Sports Program.
The Military Adaptive Sports Program was created by the Warrior Transition Command and includes a variety of reconditioning sports that have been modified, such as sitting volleyball, wheelchair basketball, air rifle/pistol shooting, swimming, cycling and track and field activities, which were all featured at the recent Warrior Games in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Col. Victoria S. Kilcawley, who serves as chief of adaptive reconditioning at WTC, said the sports program is always looking for new activities to add to help Soldiers reduce stress and possible dependency on medication, while increasing mobility and sense of self-worth.
"At the 2015 Warrior Games, we're going to introduce wheelchair rugby as an exhibition," she said. "It's designed for people who have a high level of paralysis in their spine or a spinal-cord injury.
She added indoor rowing would also be on exhibition, and down the road, possibly wheelchair soccer.
"We're working on two new things in the air rifle and pistol shooting called visual impaired assistance, so those people who are blind will be able to shoot using audio devices where they hone in on the sound," she said.
Kilcawley was at the volleyball tournament as a spectator and to evaluate how well the Soldiers had been doing in continuing their reconditioning.
"As a nurse at heart, we see them when they come in with their injuries; when they're at their worst, and then when they're starting to recover," she said. "So this has really given me the opportunity to come full circle."
Slated to be med-board retired in two months, Pfc. Dustin Barr said, "adaptive sports and reconditioning has more than anything given me a lot of self-motivation."
While in "full battle-rattle" with loaded pack on a training march and carrying an M249 light machine gun as well as his M16, he fell over a rock, tearing all the tendons in his right foot and breaking cartilage in his left.
He had also suffered knee and back injuries, then started having seizures, memory loss and a host of other issues.
"I felt kind of bummed when everything happened, like I was not going to be able to do anything I really loved," he said. "I love basketball; it's always been a huge part of my life, [I] thought I was done."
Then he started playing wheelchair basketball. He said he started recovering, so he decided to throw sitting volleyball into the mix.
"Now my WTU (warrior transition unit) wants me to do everything -- swim, archery, everything possible -- that I wasn't even doing before I hurt myself, so there's a lot of self-motivation that's pushing me on and showing me I can do a lot of things," he said.
Barr's long-term goals include earning a bachelor's degree and playing professional wheelchair basketball.
Although she and her team wanted to crush the Marine competition that Army would face for the trophy, "there's no personal animosity," said medically Retired Sgt. Monica Y. Southall.
"I love seeing people I've competed with before," she said, adding that throughout the year they stay in contact via Facebook and as time nears for the Warrior Games, they "hype it up," each boasting their team will win.
In 2009, Southall's unit deployed to Afghanistan. One day while riding in a mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicle, ordnance from an air strike landed too close, throwing her from the MRAP and injuring her knees, shoulders and spinal cord.
She also suffered post-traumatic stress disorder and severe depression. Throughout her hospitalization and before the start of her recovery process, she just wanted to be left alone, she recalled. That all changed with adaptive reconditioning.
When she learned of the adaptive sports program, she was hooked. In 2010, she participated in the inaugural Warrior Games, and in the four following. In September, she traveled to London to compete in the first-ever Invictus Games, sponsored by Prince Harry of the Royal Family.
"I played three sports in high school and four in college, so adaptive sports are helping me by keeping me going, keeping me active," she said, adding that she still suffers much pain every day. "Competing keeps me focused and gives me a reason to get up every morning. I love competing. It's something I need in my life."
As it turned out, the friendly trash talk the Army sitting volleyball team laid on the Marines almost worked, almost.
In the finals, Army won the first game, 15-7, but in the second, the Marines took the game 15-10 so it came down to a nail-biter, hard-fought, seesaw tie-breaker, but the Marines finally took the edge, winning the trophy after the final game that went to 25-23. Air Force took third place, making easy work of Navy in two straight victories: 15-9, 15-10. Special Operations Command was eliminated earlier in the tournament.