By maria yagerOctober 10, 2017
Soldiers from Fort Campbell's Warrior Transition Battalion challenged their bodies and minds Sept. 28 and 29, completing the 4th Annual Bluegrass Rendezvous, a two-day 167- mile bike ride on and around Fort Campbell.
"Thank you for providing us a great example of what resilience looks like. Any century ride is not easy and doing that between two days, the entire 167 miles, is totally impressive. We could not be more proud of you and we could not be more proud of the example you are setting not just for each other but for all of us," said 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) Deputy Commanding General for Support, Brig. Gen. Kenneth T. Royar, who took time to speak individually with riders about their personal experiences in preparing for this event.
The bike ride took riders off the post and into the surrounding Tennessee and Kentucky countryside where they had motorcycle escorts and a chase vehicle with support staff. The riders completed 100 miles the first day, returning to Fort Campbell in the late afternoon for a night's rest. They were back on the road the next morning to complete the final 67 miles of the Rendezvous. When they returned to post the second afternoon, they were greeted to a hero's welcome at the WTB, surrounded by friends, family and supporters.
U.S. Army Medical Department Activity Fort Campbell Commander, Col. Anthony McQueen welcomed the riders at the finish line.
"I think you can see it on their faces as they crossed the finish line, just the sense of accomplishment. They know they've done all the training and the different levels of work to prepare for this. It was just that look on their face of accomplishment and resiliency that was amazing to see," said McQueen, who presented medals to each of the finishers.
Riders celebrated their accomplishment with hugs, high fives and for some, a new found inner strength.
"I didn't think it was possible. I just thought it was crazy and especially when you have a lot of injured people using different bikes, I was like, 'this is impossible to do,' but I guess when you train, anything is possible," said Sgt. Clarence Warren, a WTB Soldier in transition who trained for and completed the Bluegrass Rendezvous.
For Warren, who said he considered himself "broken" after back and shoulder surgeries, bike riding has been a good outlet to help him resume physical activity and rebuild strength.
"When you have surgery and you think the surgery is going to magically make it better and it's not magically better, it's definitely challenging to bounce back. I've been resilient and had a positive attitude, but more so at the WTB because of all the challenges," Warren said. "Everybody has a different battle and their different fight. I just respect everybody here and those supporting us."
The bike ride was organized by the battalion's adaptive reconditioning program. Adaptive reconditioning incorporates physical activity into wounded, ill and injured Soldier's recovery plans. Soldiers at the battalion, under the care of a physical therapist, complete a minimum of 150 minutes of physical activity per week.
"I think adaptive reconditioning at the WTB is critical in the sense that maybe some Soldiers can't do push-ups and some Soldiers can't do sit ups or they can't run the typical Army PT, but, if we show them alternate exercises or alternate things they can do, it shows that they can still be physically fit. It's a confidence builder. It shows that they are resilient. It shows that they can do things and it's an example for others to follow as well," said WTB Commander, Lt. Col. Shawn Butler, who completed the Bluegrass Rendezvous alongside his Soldiers.
Bicycle riding is beneficial to some Soldiers at the WTB. It places less pressure on a person's joints and is more appropriate than running for people with knee and back issues. Some Bluegrass riders used a recumbent tricycle which places the rider in a reclined position.
"I hurt my back a few years ago and a recumbent takes the pressure of riding off of my back because you sit reclined," said Bluegrass participant Sgt. 1st. Class Brian Terry, cadre at the WTB, who completed the Bluegrass Rendezvous using a recumbent tricycle.
Riders have been training for this event throughout the year and had to receive clearance from their care team to participate. The unit physical therapist evaluated each rider to ensure that cycling was supported within their individual profiles and tracked the Soldiers as they trained.
"I started out doing 10, 12, 15-mile bike rides thinking that was insane," said Bluegrass rider Sgt. Phillip Gonzales, a WTB Soldier in transition who began training for the Bluegrass earlier this year with members of the battalion. "It gives me a focus. It gives me something I can put energy into. It also gives me a bunch of people of like minds that I can hang out with and talk with and vent to and they understand what I'm going through."
Gonzales said bike riding has helped him develop mental and physical strength, "It's helping me to find different ways I can utilize my body to bypass the limitations that I've got."
Cycling is just one of the exercises offered at the battalion's adaptive reconditioning program. Care teams at the battalion strive to find and offer as many physical activities as possible for individuals to participate in within their individual recovery plans.
"I'm proud of everyone who attempted and completed the Bluegrass Rendezvous. It shows that they are still resilient and they still have the fighting mentality to try something that most people never do in their life. They toughed through it and it made them closer, more of a team, and that's what I'm trying to do in this organization," said Butler.