FORT HOOD, Texas - The Soldier Recovery Unit here hosted the Fort Hood Soldier Recovery Unit (Virtual) Regional Trials, March 1-5, to allow for Hood Soldiers and veterans to compete for a chance to compete in the Warrior Games.
The Warrior Games is a yearly competition, hosted by the armed forces, that allows military members and veterans with disabilities to come together and compete in an Olympics-type of event.
There are multiple sporting activities to compete in, including archery, swimming, marksmanship, powerlifting and track events just to name a few, and 14 Fort Hood athletes training for the qualifying events last week.
“We have the most athletes of any SRU in the Army competing for a shot on the 2021 Army Warrior Games team,” Lt. Col Joe Black, battalion commander for the SRU, said. “We will submit their scores to region health command in Joint Base San Antonio and they will validate the scores from all of the region SRU’s. The winners will be chosen and then they will be notified and move on in September to be a part of the Army Warrior Games team.”
Though all athletes that qualify will go to the Warrior Games and compete individually, they are excited to use the opportunity to represent the Great Place, and Black was proud of their selflessness.
“All the athletes view this as their chance to represent Fort Hood and the III Corps team … that’s how they view it,” he said.
The qualifiers are usually hosted somewhere special, but with the ongoing pandemic the SRU had to host the qualifiers here. They began planning in December and Black was thankful for the help they received from the Fort Hood command teams.
“We knew it was going to be a challenge with it being virtual and we were going to have to resource everything,” he explained. “Thankfully, III Corps and Fort Hood are awesome and the Fort Hood garrison really jumped right in and opened up resources (and) facilities. We’ve had coaching from different folks come in, so all of our athletes have been mentored by sports-specific coaches and … that’s all because of the III Corps command team and the Fort Hood garrison command team.”
They didn’t just have help from the command teams. Staff Sgt. Altermese Kendrick, 1st Cavalry Division, who has competed in the Warrior Games twice before and medaled, stepped forward to mentor this year’s hopefuls.
Though they had as much help as possible that doesn’t mean hosting the virtual event came without challenges. One big challenge was not having access to some of the technology that would be present at a normal qualifying event. This especially showed during the marksmanship competition where tech can show the shooters exactly where their shot hit down to the decimal.
Nevertheless, the athletes adapted to the challenges and first time participant Capt. Susan Patton, SRU, was excited to compete in hopes to earn a spot on the team.
She participated in the track, rowing, powerlifting and cycling qualifying events. Being an athlete for her entire life she has a huge passion for athletic competition and fitness training.
“I felt this was the perfect opportunity for me to put some goals on the calendar and go for them,” Patton said.
After returning from deployment in 2020, she was met with the COVID-19 pandemic and she required knee surgery.
“I just fell into such a rut, on so many levels,” she explained. “I needed something to help me get back on track towards my physical recovery and personal fitness.
As much as preparing for the Warrior Games qualifiers has helped her physically, it has helped her just as much mentally.
“I am a domestic violence survivor and suffer from anxiety and panic episodes due to the years of abuse. Since training hard for warrior games, the anxiety, panic and nightmares have improved drastically, and I attribute a lot of the improvement to training for Army Trials,” she said. “I am a firm believer that being physically active and having attainable goals set for yourself is really the best way to help combat mental difficulties.”
She was proud of herself for overcoming her own personal challenges as well as the challenge of having to do the qualifying events virtually, and happy with her performance.
“I thoroughly enjoyed myself and even if I don’t make the team, I am proud that I got out there and participated,” she stressed. “I always say, ‘You don’t know what you can’t do if you don’t try it first.’”