ARLINGTON, Virginia (September 28, 2022)-- When you are an athlete on Team Army you know the drill, what is expected of you, and that’s what you work toward, hopefully earning a few medals along the way.
SFC (Ret) Greg Quarles and SSG (Ret) Ross Alewine were those athletes on Team Army in recent years, both competing in previous Warrior Games, Alewine at Invictus Australia and most recently both were on Team US at the 2022 Invictus Games in the Netherlands.
The opportunity to be on Team Army at this year’s Warrior Games came in a different form for the two. This time to assist the coaches as mentors.
“It was exciting to be asked to come help the team. I always enjoyed being an athlete but at the end of the day as a coach/mentor working behind the scenes was even better,” said Quarles who won four medals at Invictus the Hague back in April.
The excitement of being able to help assist the coaches is often overshadowed by the enormity of the job that many don’t see. Quarles and Alewine both saw firsthand how much work goes into the other side of Team Army.
“As a former athlete I got to see what it truly takes to put on an event like Warrior Games. Athletes show up, train, compete and it’s all smooth but athletes don’t see the I’s and t’s getting dotted and crossed to make stuff happen,” said Quarles.
For Alewine participating in the planning and coordination was something he’d not seen before but the afterhours mentoring is what made being on the other side of Team Army worth it.
“Being able to come back and talk to the new team from the perspective of having been where they are and share advice and best practices and telling them this is what you got to do if you want to end up here. They were receptive to advice and were steady about asking,” said the said the 2018 Ultimate Champion. Alewine and Quarles are not only former Team Army athletes, but both were former Soldier Recovery Unit Soldiers who needed to learn to adapt after injuries from deployments.
“There’s always that part where you want to be that athlete competing but to be there at Warrior Games on this side and have athletes come up to you and ask for advice or thank you because you were once just like them , that’s gratifying,” said Quarles who is training in hopes of making the U.S. Paralympic Team.
Watching this team since Army Trials last Spring where Alewine was brought in as a mentor, made the ask to assist the coaches at Warrior Games even sweeter.
“It’s cool being able to witness from trials to now where these guys and gals were at then and where they are now. The progression in their training, the progression in their mental toughness, and coming out on game day and showing it. Watching this team compete and win medal after medal… it was pretty awesome,” said Alewine who won seven medals himself at Invictus the Hague this year.
There were a few other former Team Army athletes also working as coaching assistants and mentors. Brent Sixkiller and Joel Rodriguez gave their expertise in wheelchair rugby, shooting, sitting volleyball and archery. The Adaptive sports journey for all four of these mentors began around the same time. The opportunities afforded to them through the Army Recovery Care Program to work with adaptive sports helped pave the way to where they are now. Quarles says it was life changing. “Everything that has happened on my journey would not have been possible had it not been for these programs.”
Another support opportunity happened for Quarles when ESPN asked him to help produce segments feeding them intel during live competitions on teammates and other athletes since he is familiar with so many having competed with them. “I would never get to do THAT as current Team Army athlete,” said Quarles.
The most poignant takeaway for both was witnessing the camaraderie. It’s different when you are watching it and not in it. This front row seat seeing a mostly first-year team who didn’t have a chance to train together over the summer evolved in front of their very eyes. Alewine says it was the greatest visual from “the other side.”
“When you meet everybody game day it’s a little awkward. But within the two weeks of competing, they grew really close, and the camaraderie was beyond tight. They showed up as strangers but left as family.”