REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- A team of Army Materiel Command employees involved in various day-to-day missions across the enterprise came together in August for a once-in-a-lifetime experience supporting the Department of Defense Warrior Games.
The 18 AMC employees joined with service members and civilians from across the DOD enterprise, creating a “purple” organization representing the Army, Air Force, Navy, Coast Guard, Space Force, Special Operations Command and Marines in support of the DOD Warrior Games at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at DisneyWorld, Orlando, Florida, Aug. 19-28. While the Army and its Training and Doctrine Command were the hosts for the 10-day event, the AMC team was charged with overseeing the event’s transportation, base operations, and protocol/public affairs/video streaming missions.
“There were a lot of challenges to make this mission a success,” said Col. Dwight Coleman of AMC’s G-3 (Operations), who oversaw the support AMC provided the Warrior Games. “But the experience, capability, knowledge and professionalism of our teammates made it possible to meet the mission seamlessly and successfully. We came together, looked at the mission and brought our resources to bear on what the requirements were.”
Although the DOD Warrior Games have been held annually since 2010, this year was the first time for the games to be held at the 220-acre ESPN-Disney venue. The AMC team ensured all aspects of logistical support were in place for about 300 wounded warrior-athletes and their families, including ensuring accommodations for special physical needs, and for the needs of international athletes from Canada and Ukraine.
“Prior to the games, we reviewed the statement of work and those duties that could be provided by contractors,” Coleman said. “We started our planning in January and brought on a contractor in May. Then it was just a couple short months and we were in Orlando providing the support that TRADOC needed to ensure a quality experience for the wounded warrior-athletes and their families.”
Support came at all hours of the day and night, seven days a week, once the athletes began arriving and competing. With 11 sporting competitions and four venues, the transportation mission required a lot of planning and coordination.
“The contractor handled day-to-day transportation needs while our AMC team focused on reception upon arrival and departure, and Army staff and dignitary movements. We had Air Force, Navy and Marine teammates who took care of their service branch staff and dignitaries,” Coleman said. “All of us worked long hours and often were faced with on-the-spot decision making to make sure our wounded warrior-athletes were ready to compete.”
While U.S. and Canadian athletes arrived by commercial flights, one complex situation occurred with the departure of the Ukranian team, which for security reasons had to arrive and depart McDill Air Force Base on a British Royal Air Force flight. The departure day was the same day that DOD dignitaries were arriving for a Special Operations Command change of command ceremony on the base.
“We met several times with the leadership at McDill to deconflict assets and to cross coordinate with Special Forces Command,” said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Lanorris Ford, AMC G-3. “We had a window for departure and if we didn’t make it the athletes and their families would have had to wait three days before we could get access to the base again. The timeline was complicated by the additional time needed to load disabled warriors and their equipment.”
The athletes and their families were housed at the Shades of Green athlete village on the DisneyWorld property. Base Operations were overseen by Col. Crystal McCarter, a strategic planner with AMC Executive Services, who was unofficially called the mayor of Shades of Green during the Warrior Games.
“We provided top-notch logistical support for the wounded warrior-athletes and their families in all areas,” Coleman said. “We had people on the team who knew what was needed and had the ability to problem solve on the spot. TRADOC trusted us and gave us the band width to make last minute decisions in unpredictable situations. The relationships at Shades of Green were especially important, and the team did a phenomenal job to make sure the athletes and families felt safe and comfortable.”
In the area of Protocol, AMC’s Protocol Director Andrea Wiley-Bigelow oversaw support provided to dignitaries from DOD and all services. Her team coordinated invitations, schedules, lodging and escort duties for dignitaries, and the awards ceremonies for wounded warrior-athletes.
“With each dignitary, we would see what competitions were going on while they were here and then we planned a scheduled that focused either on sporting events where they may know some of the competitions or they have an affinity for. In some cases, they would want to see a particular sport because they know a Soldier who is competing there,” she said.
Each service branch had protocol representatives working in the Joint Visitors Bureau.
“It was definitely a team effort,” Wiley-Bigelow said. “It was really hard work and very intense at times. But it was so worth in to be able to support these wounded warrior-athletes and their families.”
Allen Lastinger, a multimedia production specialist in the AMC Media Center, G-2/6, coordinated the first-ever streaming broadcast of the DOD Warrior Games. As the streaming manager, he worked with ESPN to develop a process for getting the broadcast signals from the multiple venues into a format that allowed for streaming multiple events simultaneously, allowing viewers to determine which competition they wanted to watch. Viewers were also able to watch an event and chat with other viewers simultaneously.
While ESPN Sports had television production equipment set up at all four venues, DOD Warrior Games used multiple techniques for broadcasting the competitions. It was Lastinger’s job to ensure the broadcast was working on the DOD Warrior Games website as well as on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and the Armed Forces Network. He also oversaw combat camera teams that shot background video to be used in broadcast interview pieces.
“It involved building good working relationships so that we were able to showcase these veteran athletes in nothing less than Olympic quality broadcasting,” Lastinger said. “I doubled as a liaison officer who connected the athletes to award-winning broadcasters from ESPN for interviews where they could tell their story.”
Lastinger said supporting the DOD Warrior Games is one of the most significant highlights in his 40-year broadcasting career.
“To be able to talk to these athletes and interview them and to hear about their resilience was just amazing,” he said. “And to be able to put these games out on the Internet so family and friends and the public can watch was just fantastic. I understand the technology and I understand the purpose and need for telling the story. It’s a combination of skills that brought it all together.”
Besides the competitions, Lastinger and his team recorded interviews for worldwide dissemination on multiple platforms to include HULU, ESPN+, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Armed Forces Network and the DoD Warrior Games website.
The online games and interviews garnered more than 30,000 views just on the DOD website. There were viewers from more than 40 countries, with the viewer engagements averaging just over 28 minutes and the total collective viewing time reaching 358 days.
“It was the hardest work I’ve ever done, even harder than when I was a Soldier,” Lastinger said. “But I enjoyed it. There’s not one moment I wouldn’t do over again, even the bad moments because they allowed me to see my growth potential.
“I worked with awesome professionals who had the same care and concern to showcase these athletes and to make sure their sacrifices are not forgotten.”
The AMC team completed the mission knowing they made a difference for the wounded warrior-athletes and their families, and for DOD.
“It was an honor to represent the United States, the U.S. Army and AMC on this mission and to work with professionals from the different services,” Coleman said. “The Warrior Games are part of a holistic approach to heal our wounded warrior-athletes. We wanted to put on a great event for these athletes to help them in their healing and recovery.”