By Stephen Standifird, Fort Leonard WoodAugust 3, 2016
FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. -- The road from Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri all the way to the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil is not as long as it may seem, at least for three Soldiers here.
One of the first Soldiers to secure a spot on the U.S. Olympic team, Sgt. Nathan Schrimsher began his Army career here in 2013. It's also where his coach, Staff Sgt. Dennis Bowsher, who competed in the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, England, began his career in 2005.
Both Army athletes are motor transport operators who attended basic training and Advanced Individual Training at Fort Leonard Wood, and both compete in the modern pentathlon, a sport that involves multiple events, including swimming, fencing, running, shooting, and equestrian show jumping.
Schrimsher, who is a Roswell, New Mexico native, picked up the sport at the age of 12. His parents wanted to find an active pastime for him and his brother, and the coach of the swim team they approached happened to be a pentathlete for Poland in the 1980 Olympic Games.
"He told us about a pentathlon camp he would coach later that year," Schrimsher remembered. "We both went to it and now are on the national team. The rest is history."
After multiple appearances in the Modern Pentathlon Junior World Championships, where he earned various medals, he made the jump to the senior division. He placed third in the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto, Canada, which earned him a spot on the U.S. Olympic team for the Rio games.
"I just want to go and compete and do the best I can. I just feel like regular old Nathan from New Mexico, just doing my thing," Schrimsher said. "I'm going to give it my best like I've always done."
Bowsher, a Dallas, Texas native and a six-time national champion, is looking forward to coaching his fellow Soldier in Rio.
"This is a great opportunity because I have been to an Olympic Games before and this is Sgt. Schrimsher's first time," Bowsher said. "The biggest thing is to make this competition as normal as possible so [Schrimsher doesn't] have all those extra stressors added on."
Both athletes credit their training as Soldiers for their success in the modern pentathlon, which is a sport competition conceived in 1946 by a French military officer as a competition for soldiers.
"The Army training I receive to be physically and mentally tough is enough to apply to whatever the competition day throws at me," Schrimsher said. "Now, I'm taking all this to the pinnacle of sports, to the 2016 Olympic Games."
Bowsher compared training and competing in the pentathlon to living up to a line from Soldier's Creed, which reads, "I am disciplined, physically and mentally tough." Training at such a high level requires great discipline and time management.
"With modern pentathlon, we will have three to four practices a day," Bowsher said. "There are days where I wake up, and I am tired or may have a low level of motivation. It is during these times where I have to be strong."
Bowsher said he would eventually like to return to Fort Leonard Wood to be an instructor at 58th Transportation Battalion and share his Olympics experiences with the new transportation Soldiers.
"As an instructor, I wonder how my experiences … could be used to help shape the men and women who are making the sacrifice to represent and serve the United States of America," he said.
With the Modern Pentathlon covered by Schrimsher and Bowsher, Spc. Leonard Korir, also a motor transportation operator, has track and field covered.
Korir makes three U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program Soldiers who spent time at 58th Transportation Battalion during their Army careers.
The Iten, Kenya, native qualified to represent the U.S. in the 2016 Summer Olympics with a third-place finish in the 10,000 meters with a time of 28:16.97 at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Track and Field Team Trials in Eugene, Oregon.
Korir, 29, won the 2015 New York City Half Marathon in 1 hour, 1 minute and 6 seconds. In September of 2015, he joined the Army because he wanted to be a part of something bigger than himself.
"I was inspired to challenge myself more by joining the military," Korir said. "I wanted to represent the Army in world class events like the Olympics and world championships."
The modern pentathlon events in the 2016 Summer Olympics will begin Aug. 18. The 10,000-meter event will take place Aug. 13.