ARLINGTON, Va — There's no such thing as an off-season for the athletes at the Fort Bliss Soldier Recovery Unit (SRU) in Texas.
Soldiers throughout the Army Recovery Care Program haven’t had an easy year after the pandemic forced the cancellation of the 2021 Department of Defense Warrior Games. But recovering Soldiers at Fort Bliss isn't letting that douse their competitive fire — instead, they launched a special competition to introduce Soldiers to adaptive sports and gear up for the 2022 Army Trials.
Alan Cooksey, adaptive reconditioning support specialist at Fort Bliss, said that the SRU held a miniature competition Nov. 15-18 to get Soldiers at the SRU familiarized with the events they may be competing in this spring when Army Trials kick off, such as powerlifting, rowing, cycling, archery, swimming, and many others.
"It wasn't in the format of the regular Army Trials — it's just to get them interested in the program," Cooksey said. "So instead of going out and doing a bike race, we did a 5-minute time trial on a stationary bike. Or, for archery, instead of the 40 shots we did 30 shots."
Even if it wasn't a more formal event, the SRU went all out, and even handed out awards to top performers — in addition to a party afterward to celebrate. Almost 30 Soldiers participated, Cooksey said.
The afterparty on the last day was a chance for even more competition, with Soldiers breaking out into three teams of six individuals who would move from station to station trying out games like sinking free throws from a wheelchair, target practice with an airsoft rifle and even a game of concentration.
"This is the first time we've done this type of thing," Cooksey said. "It was just an idea we had. Some of the other SRUs were doing something similar. We just had a meeting about it and decided to put it together."
It was such a success, Cooksey feels confident they'll do it again next year.
"We just wanted to plant that seed," he said. "We have Army Trials coming up and that can lead to Warrior Games, and it's a good opportunity to start working out and preparing for it."
But it's not just about preparing for Army Trials or learning about adaptive sports. The Soldiers got a lot of enjoyment just from being able to get together and have a friendly competition with one another.
"The one thing they mentioned they liked the most is the camaraderie," he said. "And also, they realize they can do things they didn't think they could do. So many of them, even if they don't win, they realize they are able to compete."
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. Visit our website at https://arcp.army.mil