By Ms. Brittany Nelson (IMCOM)July 16, 2018
FORT SAM HOUSTON (July 17, 2018) -- The World Class Athlete program and All Army Sports' Taekwondo team beat an Army record this year after walking away from 2018 nationals with six medals, two gold and four silver.
The team has been training since June 5 at Fort Carson, Colorado. Every year Soldiers apply to the All Army Taekwondo team and the qualifiers train with the WCAP Soldiers on post. The group of athletes prepared with high intensity workouts for the 2018 Taekwondo National Championship in early July and their hard work paid off.
"I am very excited and impressed with our athletes. Looking back at my time with the team this is the best performance and medal count we have had in the history of Army Taekwondo. Last year we tied the most medal count from 1999 and this year we beat that," said All Army head coach Staff Sgt. Jonathan Fennell.
Fennell is also a drill sergeant at Fort Benning, Georgia. He balanced his duties and the training camp in order to orchestrate success from his athletes. One of his athletes Spc. Nashayla Harper, a member of the New York Army National Guard, won second place in the women's light-weight group.
WCAP's head coach Master Sgt. David Bartlett expressed his satisfaction about Nashayla's performance at nationals.
"I was proud Nashayla Harper got to the finals. She was on fire; she did very well," Bartlett said.
Pfc. David Kim, a member of WCAP, was among the two gold medalists of the competition. Kim has been going to nationals since he was 8 years old. After winning his final fight in the men's fin weight class, he discussed a key element of preparation and his emotions after winning.
"The most important thing is rehydration and putting the right stuff into your body throughout the day," Kim said. "I feel awesome, I feel like I was supposed to win."
As a member of WCAP, Kim takes part in Total Soldier Enhancement Training, a way for Soldier athletes to give back to the Army and help other Soldiers with their knowledge of sports and a winning mentality.
"TSET is good, we interact with the Soldiers. We start with a mental skill -- ours is imagining targets -- and we explain what that is like. We discuss how we mentally imagine our opponents before we fight and then we teach them some kicks, stretching drills, and we finish with sparring," Kim said
Kim plans to stay in the Army after WCAP and possibly join Special Forces or partake in the Ranger Assessment Selection program.
Spc. Terrance Jennings won the second gold medal of the tournament. Jennings, a member of WCAP, won first place in the light weight class. He has been in the program for two years and is grateful for the opportunity.
"To compete with U.S. Army on my uniform is a very proud moment for me, I've been on several national teams and an Olympic team but it is something different knowing you are representing your country and a great group of people who all have the same passion and drive toward the end goal," Jennings said.
Jennings faced WCAP member Pfc. Charles Buset, who has been practicing taekwondo for 17 years, in the third round. Ultimately Jennings won the fight.
"Beating a teammate is bitter-sweet, our sport is an individual sport; someone has to lose and someone has to win. I would have preferred it not have been him but that's how the sport works," Jennings said.
Another medalist among the team was Spc. Devon Lewis, the only woman on the WCAP team. She won second place in the women's fly-weight class. Devon mentioned how WCAP and All Army athletes are different than the rest of the competitors.
"As Soldiers, we have been through things no one here has been through. We've been through basic training, advanced individual training, and we have daily missions so no one here can contest to that, and it makes us stronger mentally and physically," Devon said.
Like Kim, Lewis takes part in TEST missions as well as Total Army Involvement Recruit missions. TAIRs are designed to educate a community about the Army and what it has to offer as a career.
"We went to two schools in New York City where we talked to students about the Army in general. We all told them our stories and how they can apply for the Army, the National Guard and Army Reserves," Lewis said.
Kim mentioned the team goes to elementary, middle and high schools and the kids really enjoy it.
Other medalists included Pfc. Niklas Poland, a WCAP Soldier who placed second in the men's welter-weight class and an Army recruit Russel Gresham who placed second in the men's heavy-weight class.
After the completion of the camp and national tournament, team members were selected by the coaches for the International Military World Council games, better known as CISM.
The following will be competing at the 2018 taekwondo CISM games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in November: All Army Soldiers Pfc. Taylor McLeod, Spc. Nashayla Harper, Sgt. Kevin Prieto, 1st Lt. Ryan Kim, Spc. James Rohleder; and WCAP Soldiers Pfc. Devon Lewis, Pfc. David Kim, Spc. Terrence Jennings, Pfc. Charles Buset, Pfc. Miklas Poland and an Airforce airman, Tech. Sgt. Sara Sayles.
The athletes have started to prepare for CISM and hope to bring home medals for the United States while representing the Army.