DUGWAY PROVING GROUND, Utah -- The bowman seemed unfazed as he drew the string taut. His eyes narrowed as he focused on the target. A look of confidence swept his face as if the result was already assured.
Staff Sgt. Michael Lukow, a Paralympic archer with the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program, showed off his marksmanship as three arrows soared through the cold, blustery desert air at Dugway Proving Ground, Sportsman's Lodge, Nov. 19. The arrows each struck a target's center more than 50 yards away.
In September, Lukow represented America as a member of the 2016 U.S. Paralympic Archery Team in Rio de Janeiro. He came to Dugway at the request of Lt. Gen. Kenneth R. Dahl who was visiting the test center and garrison.
A crowd of more than 200 attendees, including the entire student body of the Dugway School, had come to see if the Soldier could really use the skill that had helped him recover from a severe injury.
In 2008, while Lukow was serving in Baghdad, Iraq, he was hit by one of the single most lethal weapons used against American Forces, a homemade explosive known as an EFP (explosively formed penetrator), which severed his right foot.
Luckily for Lukow, a well-trained line medic was nearby; and skilled Army surgeons were able to save his life.
Lukow still keeps in touch with the medic that first reached him. "Specialist Walden was a phenomenal paramedic, I only lost one foot," he said with a grin. That's probably the kind of humor Walden would appreciate, he said.
Lukow was sent for rehab in Texas where he attended an archery exhibition that captured his attention. Once he picked up a bow, it became a critical part of his recovery process. Skip Dawson, an archery instructor, became his coach for the next three years.
Lukow, a native of Alamosa, Colorado, who now lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, did not let his injury slow him down. In fact, it has propelled him to achieve goals he never had envisioned after his injury.
"It forced me to walk and get used to the prosthetics and braces," Lukow said. "I found that the more consistently I hit the target, the easier it became to walk."
Capt. Mathew Hickey, the detachment commander of U.S. Army's WCAP at Fort Carson, Colorado, where Lukow is assigned, said it's "not unreasonable to take 10 to 12 years" of training to compete on a highly professional team level.
"He did it in just three years," Hickey said. 'He's the best archer I know."
The WCAP has 60 athletes in the program, Hickey said. Its Soldier-athletes train to compete and succeed in national and international competitions that lead to Olympic and Paralympic Games, the captain said.
Lukow, who is a recipient of the Purple Heart, National Defense Service Medal, and Iraq Campaign Medal, served as a member of the 2011 Pan American Team and the Czech Republic Teams of 2014, 2015.
"I like representing the Army, I love traveling with this program, it's a great way to meet people and see places I never thought I would," he said.
The highlight of Lukow's visit to Dugway came at the end of his presentation, when school students were encouraged to pick up bow and arrow and aim for one of the three targets on the field. Lukow coached them until they, like the master archer, could hit the target.
"That's "awesome," whispered one young apprentice as an arrow struck the target.