FORT CARSON, COLORADO (June 18, 2018)- The World Class Athlete Program falls under the U.S Army Installation Management Command with the main goal of training Soldier athletes to become national champions and Olympians while maintaining their Solider duties, according to the program's commander, Capt. Glenn Nieradka.
The performance-based command in Fort Carson, Colorado, is home to the WCAP headquarters where many of the Soldier athletes train. The athletes prepare for competitions with specialized workouts at a high intensity sometime six days a week. Although training is important, WCAP is involved in a lot more.
"Our Soldiers take part in nutrition programs, community outreach, mentorships and Total Solider Enhancement Training," said Capt. Nathaniel Garcia with WCAP.
Nutrition is vital for the athletes' performance, and Capt. Kelly Kaim makes sure they are informed on how to fuel their bodies before and after competition. Kaim was brought into the program after Nieradka took command in August 2007.
"We try to do everything we can to facilitate winning, and the athletes benefit from our nutritionist. She uses DEXA, a body-fat scanner and hydration testing. The athletes take what she says and implement it into their planning," Nieradka said.
Kaim most recently took the Taekwondo team through the commissary and taught them about the correct food they should be fueling their bodies with and what they should avoid.
"You want to stay away from most pre-packaged items because they have more preservatives. For example you want to buy your lunch meat from the deli, not the packaged containers," Kaim said as she walked through the aisles.
Another important part of WCAP is the Total Soldier Enhancement Training Program. Developed at WCAP and based on the athlete's intense training regiments, TSET increases the readiness and resilience of Army units as well as mental skill sets. Stations are set up for Soldiers to go through where they learn physical and mental skills.
"We integrate running, boxing, wrestling and sometimes shooting, at the stations. We get two minutes between each station to discuss different techniques, for example deliberate breathing and why that is important for that particular station or sport," said Staff Sgt. Jermaine Hodge, the TSET NCOIC and women's freestyle wrestling coach. "Then we take them through real life training and implementing some of the exercises we are teaching the Soldiers to utilize outside and in the Army."
The two and a half hour training is brought to various installations around the country where Solider athletes teach the course. The biggest benefit of TSET is the increase in Army readiness, according to Hodge.
"The training helps the Soldiers get fit and ready to fight. These guys are enjoying the courses we are giving them, and they are implementing it in their companies and battalions, boosting overall Army readiness and their physical training average scores," Hodge said.
The Soldier athletes teaching the courses are also benefiting from the exercise.
"The biggest thing the WCAP athletes gain from putting on TSET is public speaking, which is huge. [They] have to get in front of 200 to 500 Soldiers and tell them why that particular sport is relevant to what they are doing in the Army," Hodge said.
The Soldier athletes partake in other speaking events as well that benefit the Army as a whole. WCAP partners with Total Army Involvement Recruiting by visiting schools and talking to students about WCAP and the Army.
"For the kids, they see that these Soldiers can do something else besides 'Soldiering.' I think it plants that nugget in kids' heads that there are opportunities out there in the Army other than shooting an M-4," Nieradka said.
The Soldier athletes also interact with children in the community. They visit local elementary schools to read to students as well as host free sports clinics.
"The Soldier athletes are able go out and give back to the community, and make the kids smile and laugh," Hodge said.
Despite the competitive nature of the program, the athletes and coaches all share a sense of family within the program. One of the reasons Modern Pentathlon athletes Spc. Amro Elgeziry and Pfc. Isabella Isaken, who are married, joined WCAP was for this environment.
Isaken, who competed in the 2016 Olympics, noticed the comradery between the WCAP athletes at the games. "In WCAP you have a whole team behind you but when I was a civilian in the 2016 Olympics I didn't. It's an amazing support system," she said.
Elgeziry agrees and says the team is really supportive and behind each athlete you.
Overall, WCAP is more than an Olympic athlete training command, it is a program where Soldier athletes help the Army expand their physical and mental skills through TSET, reach out to the community and represent the Army in a unique way.