By Ben ShermanDecember 1, 2011
FORT SILL, Okla. (Dec. 1, 2011) -- Spc. Jared Page played basketball a lot when he was in high school in Pond Creek, Okla. Now he's playing again in a different way -- in a wheelchair, as part of the Fort Sill Warrior Transition Unit's Adaptive Sports program.
Page injured his knee while serving with the 1st Battalion, 158th Field Artillery in Ramadi, Iraq, in 2009. He was eventually transferred back to Fort Sill.
"What caused me to have my surgery was, that I was playing basketball at Rinehart gym and I tore my ACL," Page said. "I had surgery after that and thought it had healed just fine. I got orders to be part of the Operation Warrior Training program and we got transferred to Fort Hood (Texas). While I was running during PT at Hood I tore my ACL again. That is when I was put in the Warrior Transition Battalion there."
While Page was in the WTB at Fort Hood he got involved in wheelchair basketball. He believes that it is a natural progression of his basketball experience, now that he has been injured.
"It's the same as regular basketball. You can set a pick with the chair. You can't wheel more than twice without dribbling or passing the ball, because that's a 'walk.' They have a shot clock, and you can only be in the paint for three seconds, just like in the regular game. They even call charging," Page said with a laugh.
His new basketball skills have led to even bigger things since he came back to Lawton.
"My skills opened some eyes here at Fort Sill. And they asked me if I would like to go to a wheelchair basketball clinic at the University of Texas at Arlington over Veterans Day weekend. We thought it was only going to be a clinic, you know, kind of learn how to use the wheelchair better. But it turned out that it was not only a clinic, but it was also tryouts to see who who was going to be on the All-Army wheelchair basketball team for the Warrior Games next year," Page said.
He hasn't heard if he will make the team, but it looks promising. Page has also been asked to participate in other events for the games, such as sitting volleyball, because there are only so many slots for individuals to compete in. So the more events that he can compete in, the greater the chance he will make the team.
With three surgeries on his ACL so far, he feels he is making progress toward a recovery.
"I'm going through the medboard process now. So I'll be here for a while. But it's not really different than being in a regular unit, because I'm in the Oklahoma National Guard and so I would be here anyway," he said.
As excited as Page is about the prospects of competing in the Army Warrior Games, he also sees opportunities for the future.
"I've been offered an opportunity to play basketball at the University of Texas at Arlington. I don't know if it involves a scholarship or not, but they have extended an offer for me to play there when I leave the Army," he said.
But, that may have to wait a while. He now serves as the Adaptive Sports coordinator for the Fort Sill WTU. He wants to develop the program so wounded warriors can have more activities to help them get better.
"I want to help my fellow Soldiers. We're set up to do archery; we have the equipment to do air rifles, sitting volleyball, and we have the facilities to do swimming events. The only other thing we're not doing right now is track and field, and nobody wants to do that this time of year when it is cold in Oklahoma," Page said. "I'm hoping that they will certify me return to duty, because I want to stay in the Army. It's all I know."
He said that if he can get back on duty status, he wants to come back to Fort Sill and work in the WTU as cadre, helping other wounded Soldiers.
"I want to get other Soldiers involved in an adaptive physical therapy program and have another Soldier follow in my footsteps, to build them up to go to the Warrior Games in the future."
The Fort Sill Warrior Transition Unit serves the wounded warriors well, Page believes.
"With some of my buddies in the 45th Brigade coming back from Afghanistan, I'm glad the WTU is here. A lot of them need it, to reintegrate back from theater into the regular life at home. I have probably one of the smallest injuries here, but we've got good support," he said. "I was only at Fort Hood for two months, but they have two battalions there and you can get lost in the Fort Hood WTB."
"It was too spread out, and with more people, you had the same stuff that active duty had," he continued. "But here it's a very relaxed environment. You get more one-on-one with your squad leader, your case manager and the doctors."
The Adaptive Sports program at Fort Sill continues to grow. When Page started the wheelchair basketball program in the middle of November, 12 people showed up for the first game. He barely had enough time to work with them and teach them how to use the wheelchairs.
But, more than 20 Soldiers came out the next week, and they were able to get a good game going and even worked in some substitutes.
Page said he wants to develop the program even further.
"The reason we're practicing is so we can get a team together," Page said. "We're supposed to be challenging a team from Reynolds Hospital for what is being called the 'Commander's Cup.' And hopefully that will become a post tradition that we can do, to have a miniature warrior games at Fort Sill. I'm excited about the future."