Two Soldiers in the U.S. Army’s World Class Athlete Program were recently recognized for their athletic performance and leadership abilities.
Sgt. 1st Class Michael Smith was named man of the year for U.S.A. Triathlon. Staff Sgt. Naomi Graham, who recently earned her spot on the U.S.A. boxing Olympic qualification team, was chosen as the U.S.A. Boxing Olympic team captain.
“To win this award while serving in the Army means everything to me,” said Smith, a para-triathlete. “The whole point of me coming to WCAP was to represent our country as a Soldier and an athlete.”
Smith, who was unaware he was in the running for this award, is the first active duty service member to receive it. Smith has always been involved in sports. He used his competitive drive after he was injured as a way to stay strong and stay qualified as fit for duty.
“I fought to stay in the Army,” said Smith. “I joined the Army in 1998 because I wanted to provide a better life for me and my sister. What better way to do it than to serve in the Army.”
Smith, a field artillery specialist, discovered WCAP while competing on the national para-skeleton team in 2017. He made the switch to para-triathlon and joined the program in 2018.
“Being in the Army and receiving this award is a blessing and an honor,” said Smith. “It goes to show, I don’t use my injury as a crutch it does not define who I am.”
Graham, who started boxing after she joined the Army, was not expecting her title either.
“I was honored especially since it was peer nominated,” said Graham. “It made me feel a sense of responsibility and that I have something to bring to the team.”
The four-time national champion credited WCAP and the Army for her achievement.
“The Army has instilled a lot of things in me that I did not have before I joined,” said Graham. “I am resilient and I can adapt to any situation. I am good at turning negatives into positives.”
Graham, an ammunition specialist, has excelled in her military, athletic and personal life. She recently graduated with an associate degree in medical specialties and is currently working on her bachelor’s degree in health service management.
Both athletes said that WCAP is a very supportive unit and they are grateful for their support and the unique opportunity their leaders and the Army has given them.
WCAP is a program in the U.S. Army’s installation Management Command and has been expanding with the direction and help of IMCOM’s leaders.
“The World Class Athlete Program has allowed our Soldiers and the U.S. Army to be recognized on a worldwide platform,” said Lt. Gen. Douglas Gabram, IMCOM Commanding General. “IMCOM is proud of Sgt. 1st Class Michael Smith and Staff Sgt. Naomi Graham for their achievements. We look forward to their success and the future of the program.”
Graham, Smith and the rest of the WCAP Soldier-athletes continue to train daily to reach their Olympic goals while representing the nation.