ARLINGTON, Va. – Every year, Army Trials athletes demonstrate the ability to adapt as they put themselves to the test in multiple sports over a short span of time. Army Trials 2021 was the first time that required the competition itself to adapt in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
This year, 78 athletes participated in events at 13 Soldier Recovery Units across the nation. They were vying for spots on Team Army to compete in the Department of Defense Warrior Games in Orlando, Florida, in September. Events included: archery, cycling, golf, rowing, shooting, swimming, track, field, sitting volleyball, powerlifting and wheelchair basketball.
Over two weeks in March, the Trials were held virtually and locally instead of in one location. The Fort Hood Texas, SRU had the highest number of participants. In all, eight Soldiers from their unit took part in 11 sports. The next largest group was from the Joint Base Lewis-McChord SRU, Washington, where six Soldiers took on ten sports.
Rebecca Richardson, recreation therapist at the Fort Campbell Kentucky, SRU said that the most challenging part of Army Trials was providing the athletes with the best possible experience. She said they tried to recreate the true experience and capture its spirit at the local level.
Army Trials athlete Sgt. Jared Babinski participated in rowing, powerlifting and swimming events at the Fort Campbell SRU. He said that it was great to arrive at the SRU, have the ability to take care of himself and then learn that Army Trials is held so that Soldiers can compete at a high level.
“It’s nice that it’s here and they offer it,” he said.
For Babinksi, the challenge was the best part. He said it was good to have this experience amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and witness other athletes who wanted to participate and push themselves.
Army Trials athlete Cpl. Chance Boleware competed in field, shooting, archery and powerlifting at the Fort Campbell SRU. He described training as therapeutic and an opportunity to do things he’s able to do. He said that it’s not just about winning a title; it’s about growing and doing something you didn’t think you could with people who have shared experiences.
“It’s an inspiration to see others competing also,” he said.
For Boleware, some of the best things about Army Trials were meeting new people, being active and doing beneficial and therapeutic activities. However, the sports were the best of all. When it came to him competing, he gave credit to members of the SRU cadre, and the highest credit to God.
Richardson said that training for and competing in Army Trials benefits Soldiers in a number of ways, such as introducing things they wouldn’t have thought of and giving them camaraderie. It’s also something for which to train.
“We don’t focus on what they can’t do; we focus on what they can do,” she said.
The Army Warrior Care and Transition Program is now the Army Recovery Care Program. Although the name has changed, the mission remains the same: to provide quality complex case management to the Army's wounded, ill and injured Soldiers.