FORT BLISS, Texas - Three Ivy Division Soldiers, one U.S. Army Reservist, and one retired Veteran from the Fort Carson Warrior Transition Battalion competed at the 2019 Army Trials, at Fort Bliss, Texas, Mar. 6-15.
The Army Trials is an adaptive sports competition that brings wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers and Veterans together to compete for a chance to represent Team Army at the 2019 DoD Warrior Games.
This year during the Trials more than 125 athletes trained and competed in 14 different sports: archery; cycling; track; field; powerlifting; shooting; sitting volleyball; swimming; wheelchair basketball; rowing; and new this year, golf, wheelchair tennis, and wheelchair rugby.
The commander and the senior enlisted advisor from the Fort Carson WTB were able to show their support for the athletes by attending several of the sporting events.
"We want to support the athletes who are here representing Fort Carson," said Lt. Col. Jeff Han, commander, WTB-Fort Carson. "They have trained really hard, and I want them to know that we are 100 percent behind them."
Army Trials showcases the resiliency of Soldiers and the importance of adaptive reconditioning activities in their recovery.
Command Sgt. Maj. Thomas Amason, the WTB's senior enlisted advisor said, "I believe for a person to compete and perform at their best, they have to have support. And we as leaders need to be mindful of the adversity these Soldiers have gone through to keep their self grounded and moving in the right direction ... It's not an easy task by any means."
Sgt. 1st Class Angel Gonzalez got his start as an adaptive sports competitor after he unexpectedly suffered from a massive stroke in 2017. He said, "I have always been into fitness and keep a good diet, so no one was more surprised than me (to have gone through this experience)."
As Gonzalez is still recovering, the work he put in to train for the Army Trials showed during the competition. He won a gold medal in the men's 800-meter track event, a gold medal in the men's one-minute rowing race, and a silver medal in the men's four-minute rowing endurance competition.
"What I have observed since taking command at the WTB is that all of our Soldiers have discipline and are mission focused, which is instilled from the time they join the Army," explained Han. "And recovering at the WTB helps them build the resilience and confidence they need to overcome setbacks and life changes. These Soldiers prove they can still accomplish the mission they are given, no matter how great the challenge."
The WTB also offers many opportunities for Soldiers to recover and transition to the next chapter in their life, and they see the value in participating in adaptive sports.
While deployed in support of Operation Atlantic Revolve, Pfc. Joshua Berry sustained several injuries from a torn ligament, to an esophagus tear from water contamination, and a shattered knee cap from a fall. He has been at the Fort Carson WTB for six months and said, "The Army Trials gives me a chance to feel accomplished again."
Spc. Trevor Miller, a U.S. Army Reservist, and a wheeled vehicle mechanic was assigned to WTB-Fort Carson to recover from a lower back and hip injury during a deployment last year to Iraq. He is participating in the Army Trials this year for the first time and competed in the shooting, track, field, archery, and sitting volleyball events. He said, "I am just honored to be here to participate and do something active after being injured for so long."
Sgt. Tanner Kane, an infantryman from California played sports throughout high school. He said, "Being at the (Fort Carson) WTB helped me continue to be athletic in spite of my injuries." The infantryman competed in the golf, shooting, cycling, track, and wheelchair basketball events, and he won two gold medals in track, a bronze medal in cycling, and the gold medal in golf.
Sgt. retired Maria (Jamie) Villareal, a small arms artillery repairer was devastated when she got out of the Army, but found through adaptive sports you can still be part of what you love, the camaraderie, and pushing yourself and others towards your goal. "Injuries don't define who I am and it doesn't have to stop there," Villereal explained. The Veteran competed in wheelchair tennis, wheelchair basketball, track, and cycling, and won two gold medals and two silver medals in four of the women's track events, as well as, one gold medal in cycling.
"I couldn't be more proud of my Soldiers and every Soldier and Veteran out here competing," said Amason. "After seeing some of the adversities these Soldiers have overcome, and then compete in events such as this, seeing this is just awesome ... you honestly have to ask yourself, where did the phrase 'I can't do it,' come from."