Soldiers pedal their way to recovery
By MaryTherese Griffin, U.S. Army Warrior Care and Transition

ARLINGTON, Va. - U.S. Army Sgt. Anthony Boyakin and Sgt. 1st Class Dwayne Conkle's path to the Warrior Transition Battalion, Fort Carson, Colorado were different, but their approach to recovery has been the same, a refusal to quit or give up. Boyakin arrived at the WTB in January 2019 because of a hiatal hernia diagnosis in his stomach and is currently awaiting tests for other gastrointestinal tract issues. Conkle, was injured after instinctively trying to catch a crate of ammunition falling from the back of a truck. The act resulted in a spinal fracture and an assignment to the WTB in December 2018.

Conkle had plenty of concerns and negative assumptions about the WTB before he arrived. "I assumed it was a place the Army started to fix Soldiers the best they could before sending them into the civilian life," Conkle said. "When I arrived, I discovered that was only half of the story and that many of the Soldiers who end up at a WTB are returned to duty and continue their careers."

Conkle never imagined he would have the amount of people and resources available to him focused on helping him recover. He, along with Boyakin, also have been able to rediscover their passion for cycling through the WTB's adaptive reconditioning program. Cycling outdoors around Fort Carson with its vast blue skies and mountain views, like that of Pikes Peak, add to the appeal of participating in the sport. Matt Cattapan, a member of the adaptive reconditioning program staff at Fort Carson, is one of those encouraging the two to pedal to greatness and recovery.

"Soldiers in our WTB are being challenged to get outdoors and out of their comfort zones by pedaling their way to peak cardio aerobic fitness levels on bicycles," Cattapan said. "Whether it be on two (an upright cycle) or three wheels (a recumbent or hand cycle), the rides and routes are designed to increase fitness levels for Soldiers to return to duty with success or transition out of the Army in top physical shape."

Boyakin is still unsure if he will be able to return to duty, but is embracing every hill and straight away, both literally and figuratively, in his recovery. "Cycling and mountain biking have given me a way to push myself both mentally and physically. I really enjoy riding and it gives me a strong sense of accomplishment."

Conkle is transitioning out of the Army due to his injury, but his time at the WTB has given him a new joy that he will take with him in recumbent cycling. "I was sure I would never be able to ride again, but [the AR program at the WTB] provided an opportunity to ride when I was introduced to the recumbent bike. It allows me to get a real cardio workout and not be restricted to a cycle in the gym."

Boyakin and Conkle have taken advantage of their time recovering at the WTB and will take their experiences with them when they transition along with the benefits they found with cycling.