GEN. CHEEK: Good morning, everybody. My name is Brigadier General Gary Cheek. I'm the commanding general of the U.S. Army's Warrior Transition Command. And on behalf of Secretary Gates and the Office of the Secretary of Defense, and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mullen, and also, our partners in this, the U.S. Paralympic Committee, the USO, Ride 2 Recovery, and a whole host of other organizations, we want to announce to you that we're going to do our first Warrior Games, an Olympic-style event, in 10 to 14 May of this year, at Colorado Springs, Colorado. And it'll be hosted by the U.S. Olympic Committee, to do that.
Obviously, we're really excited about it. I want to tell you the story behind that here in just a minute. But before I do that, let me introduce to you some of our other folks that are in attendance with us today -- that is, if I can find the sheet of paper that I had it written on; it's always the one at the bottom.
Okay. First, I want to tell you, we're going to have remarks by more than myself. Mr. Charlie Huebner, from U.S. Paralympics, will speak; as will Mr. John Register, a two-time U.S. Paralympian Army veteran, and he's currently the associate director of community military programs for U.S. Paralympics.
We also have a lot of other folks that have been involved in this that are present today: Mr. Tom LaCrosse, from the Office of the Secretary of Defense; Charles -- and I should have asked you -- Milam -- did I get that right? -- from the Director of the Air Force Services; Captain Key Watkins -- Watkins, from the U.S. Navy, and he commands the Navy Safe Harbor program; Colonel Greg (Gregory) Boyle, who's the commander of the U.S. Marine Corps Wounded Warrior Regiment; Mr. Kevin Wensing, with the USO; Ms. Robin McClanahan, with the American Red Cross; Mr. John Wordin, from Ride 2 Recovery.
And most importantly, several of our service members -- I'll call them our recovering service members, our wounded warriors -- that are here with us. I've got (First) Lieutenant Robert Weiskopff , and Specialist Josh Ivey, and Sergeant Juan -- oh, boy --
GEN. CHEEK: Thank you.
And those are our three representatives from the Army.
Corporal Michael Morgan and Sergeant Keith Buckmon from the Marine Corps.
Frank -- did I miss anybody?
STAFF: Yes. There's a -- (off mike) – (Culinary) Specialist, Judy Boyce , with the U.S. Navy.
GEN. CHEEK: Okay. Great. And so Judy from the U.S. Navy.
And I apologize for not getting that exactly right.
And of course, for the -- our media, we'd love for you to have opportunity to talk with each of them as you go through -- go through this.
Now, you might ask yourself why would we do an event like Warrior Games, and I'll tell you, very simply, it is because, while we've made enormous progress in all the military services in our warrior care -- great facilities, great medical care, and I would say great support from the United States of America, from our citizens and the many organizations that help us -- but it's not enough. And what we have to do with our service members is inspire them to reach for and achieve a rich and productive future, to defeat their illness or injury, whatever lies in their way, to maximize their abilities and know that they can have a rich and fulfilling life beyond what has happened to them in service to their nation.
And in that theme of maximizing your abilities, that's what kind of planted the seeds of this. And so, as the story goes, I think -- John, when was the -- when were we in Texas? Was it March of last year?
: Yeah, end of March, beginning of April.
GEN. CHEEK: Okay. So in the -- in March of last year I was invited to go on a -- I'll say -- I'll call it a bike ride, but a cyclist would probably call it something different -- on Ride 2 Recovery, which they were actually riding from Fort Sam Houston or San Antonio, Texas, all the way to -- up to Fort Worth, right, I think, or Arlington -- Arlington, Texas. So -- I don't know -- about 500 miles or so.
I joined them for one day,. the ride from Austin, Texas, to Killeen, Texas, and I rode that 50-mile stretch with about a hundred wounded warriors, veterans and some care providers as well, on that trek.
And you know, 50 miles for a 50-year-old who hasn't ridden a bicycle since high school -- that can be pretty challenging. But it can also be pretty rewarding when you get that done. And when you're riding with amputees and hand cyclists and veterans from Vietnam -- a double amputee, in some cases; gold medal winner, by the way -- it's pretty inspiring.
And the sense of accomplishment that you get when you complete that is pretty significant.
And so we got done, and we were standing around the parking lot. And it's John Wordin and myself and Jeff Hill from the USO. And we're just talking about it, and Jeff kind of remarks, "Hey, what else can we do? We want to do something big for this."
And I don't know -- I don't know if I want to claim that it was my idea, because if it doesn't go well, then I can have someone else to blame. So I'll just say the three of us in this conversation came up with this idea that we wanted to do an Olympic-style event to challenge our service members, to put them in an athletic competition and let them prove to themselves and everybody else that there are a lot of things that they can do; that they have abilities within them that they can carry over.
And our hope is that, by doing this every year, we can have that extend down into all of our Warrior Care programs that we have in our respective services, of increasing adaptive sports and physical activity and defeating these wounds, these illnesses and injuries that these Soldiers and Sailors, Airmen and Marines contend with, defeat all that. And then from that, it begins to even be broader than that, because it becomes part of the life of that service member, and it will expand into their everyday life and all the things that they do.
And so the value of sports and athletic competition and the fact that you can get great satisfaction from what you do is really what we're after. And we're really looking for this opportunity to germinate this program in May and have it get bigger and stronger. And I'm not sure where we're headed in the long run, whether we can get to an international level of competition, but we want to take advantage of an opportunity that we have to give our Soldiers, Sailors, Sailors, Airmen and Marines a great opportunity to go out and compete.
And I'm pretty excited about it. I'm very, very grateful for the enormous cooperation that we've gotten among the military services, as well as the other organizations that are helping us plan this. And we're putting a lot of effort into it.
And now what we've really got to do is go out and recruit these athletes and get them ready to train and get them to do these events that are going to be track and field and swimming and cycling and shooting and archery and all sorts of things. And we'll learn from that and continue to develop it.
And also, we're just enormously grateful and indebted to the U.S. Paralympics, because they're the ones who are going to run this -- host this and run this for us. And so we also want to build that partnership and let -- use their experience, their expertise to help us develop and expand these programs across our different services.
So we're very excited about this. The Warrior Games are exactly the type of event that fit with the future that we want and all of our programs to care for the nation's wounded, ill and injured service members and inspire them to continue to do great things.
And also, it allows us to showcase these wonderful young men and women to America and show them that they have a lot to offer, that these are the kinds of young people that you would want to hire, that you would want to have as part of your club or your organization, that you'd want to have living in your community or that you'd want to have to continue to serve in your armed forces. And they are some great young people, and we want to bring them out and showcase them in a first-class event.
So we're very much looking forward to that, and I thank you for just the few minutes to speak.
And Charlie, I believe you're next. And I, again, am very thankful to Charlie Huebner and the efforts of the U.S. Paralympic Committee, because you've really been a great partner in this, and we're very thankful for that. So thanks.
MR. HUEBNER: Thank you, General Cheek. And more importantly, thank you for your leadership. And first and foremost, thanks to all of you that serve. We greatly, greatly appreciate what you do for all of us.
The USOC's business -- and I laugh at times when I come to the Pentagon, because it's like, I'm sitting next to General Cheek and others, and I'm like, what is a U.S. Olympic Committee guy doing sitting in this room at the Pentagon? But there are a lot of intersections between the Department of Defense and the Pentagon and the Department of Veteran Affairs in terms of what we do on a daily basis. Our business is the business of dreams.
First and foremost, and the first intersection, is the dreams of being best in the world.
And obviously, our armed forces are the best in the world. And our athletes want to be the best in the world at the Olympic and Paralympic games. And that is a core part of what we do at the U.S. Olympic Committee.
And thanks to the Secretary of Defense and Mr. LaCrosse, who is here today, for the time in history the Department of Defense sent our Paralympic team to the games in Beijing, China, last year and trained at Air Force and Marine bases in Okinawa. And I give the Department of Defense credit for more than 50 medals that Team USA won in China last year, allowing us to train at the bases in Okinawa, both Marine and Air Force.
The other intersection -- in 2008, 16 active-duty service members or veterans were part of America's team. In 2010, there are currently 15 Olympic hopefuls that are either active duty or veterans trying to make our Olympic team. There are five either active duty or veteran Paralympians trying to make our Paralympic team that have service connections. So the Department of Defense is pretty significant in our role of trying to be the best in the world.
The second part of our mission is we're in the dreams in backyards and playgrounds all over America. And that's the bigger part of the mission and the core part of our mission, what we call the U.S. Olympic Committee Paralympic Military Program. And we see it every day. Twenty-one million Americans have a physical disability.
And I'll share one story of a 6-year-old young man from Colorado Springs, where we're headquartered, who had a brain tumor. And that young man lost his eyesight as a result. And his family obviously, and his support network, were more concerned about the young man's health. But this young man, he was most concerned about being able to ride his bike, going out and doing something simple with his friends.
And we're seeing that every day with young men and women that serve. It's the simple thing, when they return to their installations or return to their hometowns, and they want to do something as simple as skiing with their buddies again, or as Keith Calhoun, a double amputee OEF/OIF veteran, who will make our Paralympic team in 2010, he wanted to run with his son.
And sports is powerful.
And our Paralympic military program, in collaboration with all the numerous organizations that we're working with -- many of them are here today -- is focused on that: providing physical opportunity as part of the rehab process, so young men and women can return to their communities and do something simple -- simple as going out and playing basketball with your buddies or running with your son.
The outcomes are pretty phenomenal, and it's not our mission. But the outcomes that we see every day, utilizing physical activity, as part of the rehab process -- higher self-esteem, lower stress levels, lower secondary medical conditions, and a very cool outcome which General Cheek mentioned: young men and women pursuing higher education at a higher level, young men and women being employed at a higher level. Those are outcomes that we see every day with the population that we serve.
And the Warrior Games is an extension of what we hope to do. Physical activity every day usually leads to competition, and that's what the Warrior Games will be. It will be physical activity. But no doubt, there will be some competition. And I've already heard it coming in this morning.
In the Olympic business, we call apparel schwag. That's a big thing in our business. And I already heard this morning, somebody said, ooh, the Marines' schwag is pretty nice.
So that competition has already started. And the competition of -- the inaugural Warrior Games are going to take place at a magical place. The Olympic Training Center is magical.
The 1980 Olympic hockey team was selected in that vicinity. Right now Michael Phelps is training in the pool at the Olympic Training Center. And it is a magical place.
And a story many people don't know about it -- which makes it even more magical, for this purpose of what we're announcing today -- the Olympic Training Center is formerly an Air Force Base (Ent AFB). And Major General (Uzal Girad) Ent was somebody that served in World War II. He had a physical disability.
So it makes it even more magical to host the inaugural Warrior Games, which we are very proud of, in Colorado Springs at the Olympic Training Center.
And the third intersection of where our businesses intersect creates unbelievable collaboration, which General Cheek talked about. Our programs are done in collaboration with so many organizations, many of which are here today. And it's amazing, when you put Team USA on your shirt, how easy collaboration becomes. And our armed forces and our Olympic and Paralympic teams, with USA on our shirts, makes it very easy to get a lot of people on the same page to do something great.
Finally, probably the most important thing that we do, I feel -- and I see it every day -- is the provision of mentors and role models for young men and women all over this country that acquire a physical disability. And I'd like to introduce right now one of my role models, a member of our staff; as General Cheek mentioned, a two-time Paralympian and an Army veteran who's just an outstanding young man and an outstanding role model for not just persons that have physical disabilities but all, all Americans: Mr. John Register.
MR. REGISTER: Thank you, Charlie. And General Cheek, once again, thank you for your leadership.
Michelangelo once said, "I saw the angel in the marble, and I carved until I set him free." When I was a soldier, I was a part of an elite group called the Army's World Class Athlete Program. It's a program that allows a service member to train three to four years prior to an Olympic or Paralympic Games. I'd just graduated the University of Arkansas, where I was a four-time All-American there. And not only did the Army allow me to pursue my athletic careers, it also allowed me to pursue my military careers. I fell in love with the Army. I loved the discipline of it.
But seven months I served for -- in Operation Desert Shield, Desert Storm. Twice I'd been to the Olympic trials. Nine times I won gold medals in the -- in interservice competition at the Armed Forces Championships. And I made two CISM teams, two international teams for the military.
But on May 17th, 1994, while training in Hays, Kansas, I went across a hurdle, landed wrong, dislocated my left knee, severed the artery. And five days later and seven operations later, I was faced with a choice: either to keep my limb and use a walker or wheelchair or some other type of assistive device to get around for my mobility, or to undertake an amputation.
And I chose the latter. I chose amputation. And when I did so, my life immediately changed.
But through faith and family and sport, especially sport, and Paralympic sport, I really found the liberation of freedom, so to speak, as I once enjoyed life as I knew it.
I was fortunate -- very fortunate enough to get back to a world- class level. I participated in two Paralympic Games, the 1996 Paralympic Games, and I was a swimmer at those games, you can believe that, and then two years later I began running track and field again and wound up taking the Silver Medal in Sydney, Australia, and having that flag and seeing my flag raised -- our country's flag raised, and for the first time seeing the connection between the military, and raising my hand and taking that oath to protect my country against all enemies, foreign and domestic, and now fighting on the field of play. And it was a powerful emotional experience for me.
And many of our service members right now have to make similar choices, or they're having to make that choice or having those choices made for them. And no matter how we come to our life-defining moments in time or our changing moments, we have a choice in which we can move forward. We can either choose to settle into our setbacks or we can soar forward knowing that we have those support networks and support groups around us that can help us get to and get back to those active lifestyles that we once enjoyed before we were injured.
And I remember, as we were going down for a test event in Atlanta, Georgia -- I was a swimmer at the time, as I told you -- and the track and field team, the swim team and the basketball team were all about to board a flight to go down to a test event in Atlanta. We were in IAD, in Dulles Airport. And the gate agent said, "Will all the people that have a physical disability or need extra time and assistance to walk down the jet bridge please get up and do so now." So 70 of us -- (laughter) -- got up and began to walk down this plank here.
So I took my seat, over around the 14F seat, and then I noticed that this basketball player was coming on the plane, he stood about 6'6", and he was walking on two artificial legs. And his artificial legs were bilateral, so he was a below-the-knee amputee. And the great thing about being a bilateral amputee is you can be 6'6" but when you take his legs -- your legs off, like he did and sat down in the seat, you can be 4'3". So he took his legs, and his teammate put them in the overhead compartment. And when the flight attendant turned around to make sure that he was settled, and went back out to get all the "abies" - the abled-bodied people -- to come on the plane, they immediately took him and put him in the overhead compartment, closing the bin after him.
So now I'm very intrigued about what's going to happen next.
So here come's the guy, Johnny Cellphone, on one cellphone in is hand here and his attache case in his other hand, to go and put his attache case up in 7A where this guy is in this bin. And I am on pins and needles about what's going to take place. Opens up the bin 7A -- boom! -- out this guy pops. (Soft laughter.) That guy went from 7A to 14F with me. I said, "Man, your seat's up there." (Soft laughter.)
And I said if this is what Paralympic sport is all about, or having a disability -- I saw for the first time in my life this is going to be something that's phenomenal. It's going to be great, because life just goes on. It moves on. And people adapt. And people adapt with great support systems and great support networks.
When the USOC Paralympic Military Program began in 2004, it was with the emphasis on the returning injured or the wounded or ill service members to the highest level of functionality. And the first person I saw that really kind of sealed this for me was a gentleman that got off the plane, on one of our first military sport camps in San Diego. And he gets off the plane, and he's in a -- his wheelchair. And his therapist said that he really didn't want to be there. He came from the hospital. He's just recently injured, and he's a bilateral amputee. And I wish I could have shared that story with him about the guy (and opening that ?) bin.
But as he gets off the plane, he -- I notice he has his running legs -- prosthesis -- made for him that are on the back of the chair. That night at dinner, he sees some of the mentor athletes, the Paralympic athletes, as well as some of the other injured service members who are at dinner that night, and each one of them is getting up, getting their own plates, going back to their tables and having their meals and having laughing and having a great time. Well, this guy is kind of processing this whole -- this whole experience that's going on.
And the next day, when we come down for our morning formation, I notice that he's not in his wheelchair. He's walking on his artificial legs. And the next day after that, he's training with one of our Paralympic coaches. And he takes the running legs on -- put his running legs on, and he's now running around the track with our Paralympic athletes. And it was not so much that he was going to become a Paralympic athlete -- that was some of the -- going to be the furthest thing away from his mind -- but it got him back engaged in life again.
That gentleman went on to finish his degree at a California University and is now engaged and employed and becoming another productive citizen in society in the state of California. It's a phenomenal testimony to what the power of sports can do in someone's life: Yes, sport for the sake of sport, but also sports as a platform to getting back to a healthy and active lifestyle.
All of us have an important role to play in this recovery process.
And through our lens, we see the angels in the marble. And through sport we begin to carve a new path in their lives by allowing the service member to see their continued value to society and regain an active lifestyle, whether that's with their family or friends or their military communities or if they end term-service and get into the civilian community.
These athletes often give back, as Charlie would say, as mentors and as role models to those that are coming after them. Many of our veteran athletes who have either made the Paralympic team or aspiring to make a Paralympic team or just great citizens in society who have gone through the military program in a community, they come back and they give back to the hospitals at Walter Reed, at Brooke Army Medical Center, in San Diego; they go off into the VA systems; and they really begin to inspire those that are going through those same processes that they just went through not even a couple years prior.
The inaugural games, the Warrior Games, will be a great event. The DOD and the Warrior Transition Command will be phenomenal. They've already done phenomenal leadership. The USOC will be a great host, and Paralympics. The USO, the uniformed service members organization, the American Red Cross and the Ride 2 Recovery are already engaged and entrenched in this, in this great event.
And all -- but I think that the greatest thing that's going to come from this, what I see continually, over and over, as I work with the United States Olympic Committee and other injured veterans, the greatest thing I see is the impact that will happen after the games are over, the legacies that will be left in the communities that the people return home to share their experiences with their families and their friends, to tell them about that -- you know what? Sports really does make a difference. And yes, it was the platform for me, but I can do anything I want to now, because I have been challenged, I've had a little bit of esprit de corps, I've been going against my service members, but at the same time I've found myself again. And when I've found myself again, I can get back and engaged into life.
These athletes are the angels in the marble. Through the support of the Department of Defense, the USOC and the Paralympic branch, and other partners, sports will be the chisel to set them free.
Thank you. (Applause.)
(Off-mike exchange among presenters.)
GEN. CHEEK: I guess at this point, unless somebody who's running this knows better than I, we'll be glad to answer any questions from our friends from the media.
Q Is this event open just to service members recovering in WTUs and other facilities, or is it also for veterans?
GEN. CHEEK: What we've -- we've put some, I'll say, loose qualifiers in that. And so each of our services is a little bit different in our -- I'll say our makeup and how we work these programs. And so I know, for the Army, we're looking for active-duty soldiers. They can be in a warrior transition unit or not. And I think we all follow that same selection criteria pretty closely. We're not looking to bring in veterans, and -- but we may in the future. But for this inaugural event, it's intended for active-duty service members.
And then -- and then the key part of that is, obviously there's a requirement for some form of a -- of an injury that would qualify them. And one of the things, just so you know, that we included in this is not just the visible wounds of amputation or brain injury or spinal cord injury, which -- those are all categories that we'll have. But we're also going to have a category for those Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines with post-traumatic stress disorder issues. And so we'll have a category for them as well.
So that's really what brings them into qualifying for the participation in the games.
Q Is this the first Paralympic event that's open to people with post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury/
MR. HUEBNER: Yeah, we're hosting -- PTSD is not a Paralympic event, but we -- obviously, we're hosting the Warrior Games, and the criteria includes all active-duty, as General Cheek said, active-duty members that have wounds or illness. So PTSD will be included. But it's not a Paralympic event by the rules of the International Paralympic Committee, if that makes sense.
GEN. CHEEK: Yes, sir.
Q What is the selection process? How are these troops being determined that they are eligible or they are qualified to be eligible?
GEN. CHEEK: Well, I don't want to speak for all the services, but it -- what we're really looking for is their -- I'll say their commanders or their units to nominate them. And for the Army, we'll bring those nominations together.
And based on those nominations in there -- say, how well they've done a particular event -- that's how we plan to select them.
Q So there's no specific qualifying criteria in any event.
GEN. CHEEK: No. There's not like a minimum time you have to achieve for something. There's nothing like that.
In fact, we are new enough at this, and I won't -- again the other services are contending with this. But we're having to do, I'll almost say, some recruiting. In other words, we have to really go out to our servicemembers and explain to them what we're trying to do.
And the other thing that's frankly challenging here is, for every one of these servicemembers, they're in a different point in their recovery. So for some, they might be a great athlete with great potential. But they're really not ready perhaps the next year.
So not everybody is a good fit, for what we're doing, based upon where they are in their recovery and rehabilitation. But we want to open it to as wide a group as we can.
And we also just -- as John mentioned, we want to be able to reach where that experience will go back to our units. And they will share with their comrades what they did. And we want to build that -- you know, that whole ethos of productivity and the role that sports and competition can play in it.
So that's a big piece of that.
MR. HUEBNER: And if I can add to that, the emphasis of the Paralympic Military Program -- oh, I'm sorry.
The emphasis of our Paralympic Military Program -- again the primary emphasis is daily physical activity. And then a next stage obviously like any sport is some competition. And that's the focus of this event, for people that are physically active as part of their rehab. Now we're going to create some competition.
No doubt out of that, some people will pursue a higher level. And that's when we get into standards and meeting specific qualifying criteria, like I mentioned earlier. I mean, we have five athletes right now that may make our 2010 Paralympic team that are either active-duty soldiers or veterans that have met a time standard.
But the emphasis of our programs and the emphasis of these games is really the extension of physical activity now to some limited competition. And even in our military camps, and John can speak to this, we all in the Armed Forces, I think, are somewhat competitive.
You know, we'll introduce people to sport at a military camp, where the focus is on physical activity.
But you get into a sitting volleyball game, and you got Marines on one side and Army guys on the other, the competition comes out. And that's really the essence of what the Warrior Games are going to be, is that extension from daily physical activity to now let's create some enhanced competition.
Q And just one follow-up. If the -- getting the word out to the WTUs is probably easier than out to the units, some of whom are in business or deployed. How do they know -- or what is the application process for them to express an interest in this?
GEN. CHEEK: For the -- for the Army -- and I think we're similar enough in the services, so -- but I'll use us as an example for -- we have about -- I think it's about 120 Army soldiers who have been seriously wounded or injured that have continued on active duty, completed their rehabilitative care and are continuing on active duty. These are, you know, amputees, brain injuries, et cetera.
And we track them for life in the Army Wounded Warrior Program. So through that program we'll be able to reach out to those active- duty soldiers and offer them a chance to come in and compete in this and work with their units. And so that's how we'll do it in the Army, and I know Colonel Greg Boyle of the Marines has got a very similar way of being able to contact his Marines that are throughout the force. And so we have a mechanism to reach out and touch them as well.
Q What range of previous athletic experience do you expect to see among the athletes?
GEN. CHEEK: I -- that question could probably be best answered by our service members that are out here. But I would tell you that a large number of these service members are high-school athletes, college athletes from a wide array of sports. And many of them, for example, used to be a great runner, and now they've taken up cycling or swimming. And so they're learning new sports for -- really, kind of for the first time.
So we're -- we are not as concerned about having someone take what they did, say, as a high-school student or as a -- as a college athlete and continue that, necessarily. If they want to do something different, like swimming, as John mentioned, then that's great. And we want to get them in there. And we've got a couple of events that -- you know, like archery, for example, is not one that probably is commonly done by our service members. But it is something that we do in the recovery programs that we have, and so that's one of the events that we added in.
And then for things like cycling, which makes it -- is such a great low-impact activity, and one that they can do for the rest of their lives, it's one that we plant in there to encourage that future activity. Swimming, another good example of that.
Yeah, go ahead, John.
MR. REGISTER: I think the other athletes that you will see are those that for the first time are using sports as a part of their rehabilitation process, and they may not have done a sport before in their life. And so this might be the first time that you they -- you find that diamond in the rough, and the sport actually becomes that conduit to them achieving something that was beyond their imagination or their thought before they were actually injured.
GEN. CHEEK: You got to bear with me. I have to tell you this exact story. We have a sergeant down at Brooke Army Medical Center, he's a single below-the-knee amputee. And as part of his recovery and goal setting that he did -- all on his own -- in fact, we learned so much from this young man, we've kind of taken what he did and we're going to put it across our whole program within the Army -- but he set a series of goals for himself after he was wounded and his leg was amputated, like "I'm going to walk my daughter to school by her next birthday," which he did two months after his leg was amputated. And then one of his other goals was, "I'm going to take up a hobby, something I've never done before," and he took up archery and, by that summer, was the State of Texas indoor archery champion.
So there are -- and this is Sergeant Jonathan Price at Brooke Army Medical Center. There are some soldiers out there -- and by the way, I think I'm going to call Jonathan and tell him he needs to get into the Warrior Games, too, just by the way. (Laughter.)
So we have some examples, just as John stated, out there of some -- I'll say some service members that have abilities that maybe they don't even recognize yet.
Q Will this be a Paralympic qualifier? I think we all understand the idea of morale and getting people into new sports and activities, but --
MR. HUEBNER: No, this is not a Paralympic qualifier for the Paralympic Games. There's a whole series of criteria, as your question related to earlier, in terms of performance criteria you need to meet to make a Paralympic team over a four-year period.
But no doubt -- I have no doubt in my mind, as General Cheek just talked about a young man, no doubt in my mind that out of this event there will be people identified that could qualify for our national team programs and get into the pipeline to pursue potentially Paralympic teams in the future. But this is not a qualifier for the Paralympic games.
Q Kind of like a (farm ?) league?
MR. HUEBNER: Somewhat, yeah. And, you know, you talked about it. You know, sport is -- sport is just one component of the rehab process. As you mentioned, other people look at other hobbies. But, you know, it's all about providing that spark. And if archery or running or basketball or sitting volleyball creates that spark as part of the rehab process, that's an -- that's an outstanding thing.
GEN. CHEEK: Yes, sir.
Q How many people, in total, do you expect to compete in these first games?
GEN. CHEEK: We have 200 athletes. And we've kind of broken them out among the services. And I think to some degree that's driven by the capacity of the facility itself, of how many it can accommodate. Of course, we could expand off of the U.S. Olympic Committee's, you know, facility there but -- I'm not sure where we're headed in the future. We actually looked at several locations and places to do this. Whether we'll do it there every year; whether we might go to different cities across America; whether we would bring in some of our international partners -- and in fact, we're going to invite some of the other nations that serve with us in our operations around the world, let them take a look at what we're doing. And maybe we'll figure out a way to bring in an international component to this as well.
So there's a lot of potential for growth, but 200 is our number of athletes for this event.
Q How are you guys funded? Is it all DOD funding? Any of it gathered through donation or anything like that?
GEN. CHEEK: Is Tom LaCrosse here?
MR. HUEBNER: I can -- I can --
GEN. CHEEK: You want to?
MR. HUEBNER: Yeah.
GEN. CHEEK: Okay.
MR. HUEBNER: Actually, it's a mixture of resources, both private and some Department of Defense funding, some from the Secretary's office and, also, private resources; that we are -- with our partners, we are recruiting both private donors and sponsors to help support this event.
Q And as you grow and, hopefully, are able to open it up to more active-duty and veterans, where do you see most of the funding coming from in the future?
MR. HUEBNER: A balance, both private and public. Yes.
Q (Off mike) -- cost for this year?
MR. HUEBNER: Estimated budget is about $350,000. And the U.S. Olympic Committee is incurring a lot of the cost.
We control, on our campus, the housing and all that. That's all being donated as a contribution to this event.
Q And when will the athletes report? I know the event's in May. Is there going to be like a month of training beforehand?
MR. HUEBNER: Well, we have -- part of the Paralympic Military Program, and again when I talk about the USOC Paralympic Military Program, that program is done in collaboration with numerous organizations all over the country -- many of which are here today.
But we have programming going on working with General Cheek and the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund. You know, our role at the U.S. Olympic Committee is, we have an expertise and we have an infrastructure of programs, like the National Recreation and Park Association and USA Swimming, that have expertise in communities all over the country.
We're working today with warrior-transition units to provide technical assistance and training, to allow them to implement programs on their base as needed. Everyone's a little bit different in terms of what their request is.
But we're also working with installations, you know, all over the country. We have staff at military medical-centers, where we're providing assistance. And we again means a lot of other organizations that are involved with us.
The Wounded Warrior Project, Disabled Sports USA are providing ongoing training as we speak. So that is happening now. And out of that based on the different selection processes, from the different services, they will nominate a team to come to the Warrior Games.
But this --
Q So they won't report earlier than the actual games.
MR. HUEBNER: No.
A lot of that training is happening at installations right now. I have with me the National Recreation and Parks Association December magazine. On the cover of it is Lieutenant Colonel Danny Dudek, who is a wounded warrior, who leads the warrior transition unit at Fort Lewis.
They have an ongoing, everyday physical activity program for their WTU in collaboration with us and Tacoma Parks and Rec. So training is happening. And training has been happening.
We've been working with all the service branches, for the last several years, providing ongoing physical activity and programming. This is kind of the next generation.
It's now, let's compete, which numerous organizations have asked for. And we're going to provide that opportunity, as an extension of what's going on daily at installations and at programs all over the country.
GEN. CHEEK: Can I make a comment too on that?
This is another one of the great benefits, I think, that we as the military are getting out of this, because we don't have anywhere near the expertise that Charlie's folks have.
And so we were able to send a lot of our cadre members that are in our units to Colorado Springs, and they also sent teams out to various installations to train our noncommissioned officer leaders on how to do some of these different adaptive sports and other things, and so that we can enrich our own expertise.
And I also see our partnership with them growing and asking them to come in and help us further develop this, so that we can even do this, potentially -- we may ultimately get to a Warrior Games that has regional-level competitions that qualify now for the games, as opposed to our current process.
So we've got a lot of growth here but, I think, a lot of benefit from it as well. We're very, very thankful for the -- what they have done for us already in changing our mind-set of how we do physical training in the Army, because this is a different population with different requirements. In fact, every single service member's got different challenges, requirements and adjustments that they have to make on anything that they do. So it really takes someone to be very adaptive and knowledgeable on bringing that individual along.
MR. HUEBNER: Let me give you specific example of that. When we do our camps and programs, both nationally, regionally and locally, we send in our coaching staff from our member organizations. Last year, at our Olympic-training center, where the Warrior Games will be, in the pool we had several -- about 50 injured service members in the pool being introduced to swimming by an Olympic and Paralympic coach, a coach that coaches Olympians and Paralympians. In the pool at the same time was Michael Phelps. So I mean, you're talking about an unbelievable opportunity.
And the beauty of that day was, Michael came over on his own and spent some time with the service members that were there, many of them learning to swim for the first time, others that have swum before and kind of -- this was their opportunity to jump back in it, being coached by Olympic and Paralympic coaches, but the greatest -- arguably -- athlete in the world was in the pool with them at the exact same time.
GEN. CHEEK: Yes, sir.
Q I just wanted to ask you, what is the size of the available pool of those eligible in the Army? You spoke about the 150 who are active-duty, but the WTUs --
GEN. CHEEK: Right. Right.
Q -- and what if you find yourself in a circumstance where you find more servicemen who express a desire to compete in these games than are nominated?
GEN. CHEEK: Right. Well, we have -- we have 9,000 soldiers -- well, just under, about 8,900 -- in our warrior transition units. And so that's a pretty large selection pool. And the Army's, I'll say, quota that we have is a hundred.
So you would think that we'll definitely have some soldiers that want to compete that we won't be able to send to it. So we'll just have to encourage them to keep trying, and that may be part of the business here.
But, you know, of those 9,000, though, there are many that have a lot of circumstances that won't match the opportunity to go to the games. But we want to start picking them out, getting them excited about it and getting them trained and -- to the highest level they can before they get there.
MR. HUEBNER: And -- it's a great question, and this is one event, and we're very excited about this one event, but again, a big emphasis of ours jointly is what happens every day in the community, what happens every day at an installation, what happens every day for a veteran that goes home to a community, making sure that the opportunity for physical activity as part of their rehab, or as part of their life ongoing, is available to them.
That's a big part of our involvement in this, and that's something that, through General Cheek's leadership, working with the warrior transition units and all the different armed services, we're providing expertise and programming to the WTUs to ensure that you come out to Colorado for the greatest week of your life at a magical place, but what is just as impactful or more impactful is what happens when you go back to your installation for the other 360 days out of the year, making sure that that physical activity as part of rehab is there and available at a -- at a high level so you can, as mentioned earlier, jump back into life, jump back into service, jump back into your everyday job.
GEN. CHEEK: Yes, ma'am.
Q What are going to be some of the hurdles for those wishing to participate, and how are those addressed during the training?
: (Inaudible) --
: Well --
Q Is there -- physical things, emotional --
MR. HUEBNER: As a -- as a -- as a weekend warrior athlete, altitude -- (laughs) -- John probably best to answer that, in terms of -- in terms of hurdles for an athlete wanting to participate.
MR. REGISTER: Thanks, Charlie. I don't run hurdles anymore. (Chuckles.) I think that some of the challenges that people begin to find out is, you have accessibility things, transportation, getting to events, traveling for the first time, as I alluded to in my opening remarks. And some of those things that they will find are the everyday, every-life-day skills that they want to enjoy, they have to find a new way in which to navigate that. And for -- there's definitely, through physical therapy and occupational therapy, some ways in which those great workers, those therapists, help the individual navigate the initial portion of becoming a new -- a new individual back in society again.
But I think it's also more important for that individual to figure out what works for them. And this is what sports brings. It begins to allow a person to push themselves beyond what they once thought they were capable of doing. And in doing so, they rediscover not only who they are, but what limitations that they have and what boundaries that they can push themselves beyond on a day-to-day basis. I hope that answers your question.
Q Just a -- just a quick clarification: The people who compete, they'll be TDY. So they will -- so any expenses they incur, they will get paid back, correct?
GEN. CHEEK: That's correct. In fact, we're -- it's more than just the service-member athletes. We're also going to send some cadre care providers, others. And we've kind of carefully broken out who's going to pay for what to make sure we cover all that. So for example, for the cadre members and providers that come from the Army, we're going to -- we -- the Army's going to fund the travel and temporary duty expenses for them.
And we've worked the travel through the Office of Secretary of Defense for the athletes and the lodging and the food through their program that's associated with support to the Olympics and so on. So we've kind of farmed this out to figure out the best ways to do it.
And then, of course, many of the other supporting organizations -- and the USO being one -- is going to host a number of events, et cetera, that will be part of this banquet, the awards ceremony and even a concert, I think, is some of the things that we're looking at doing.
Q And how do you pick 100 from a pool of 8,900?
GEN. CHEEK: We've put out our packets and orders and stuff the way the Army does it, and then we're going to sort through it. And I don't know; we may have some very tough calls that we're going to have to make. We'll see how that pans out.
Q And following up on that: The other hundred, is that from the rest of the force? Is that --
GEN. CHEEK: Well, I believe the Marine Corps has 50 and the Air Force and the Marines have 25 each, and the Coast Guard is partnered with the Navy.
Did I get that right? Yes? Okay.
Q And when do you hope to have these selected by?
GEN. CHEEK: Well, every one of the services has got their own timelines. We have -- we in the Army are looking -- I believe it's about the end of this month to have our first cut of the nominations. And I'll be honest with you: I'm as much concerned with making sure our service members really understand what we're doing, and building the enthusiasm.
And so we're going to work it a couple of different ways, both the nomination process, but we're also going to go -- I'll say, anoint a few folks, particularly at our locations where we've got, you know, our most significant injuries -- at Walter Reed, Brooke Army Medical Center, Balboa Naval Medical Center -- make sure we've got some -- I'll just call them recruiters there, looking to encourage participation.
So we're going to work it both ways. And if we get way too many, I think that's good. And it may cause us to try and do some -- something else for those other soldiers that want to get into competition. Because we think there's a lot to be gained here, and we don't need just a single event; we want this to become a(n) everyday thing for their life from this point on.
Okay. Are we about -- I think we're about done.
For our members of the media, again, I'll just remind you we've got several of our service members here. Please feel free to talk to them about their thoughts on this and what they're looking to do -- as well as the gentlemen to my right who are also part of our wounded- warrior programs from all the services. This has been a very cooperative effort. I think just the Army, because we've got the larger piece of this, we've done maybe the staff work. But it has been a very, very cooperative effort, and they've been full participants in the entire way, and so they've got a big piece in this, as well.
And we're really looking forward -- I'd say, not so much about the inter-service part of it. That's great, but I think we're all looking forward to offering a challenging opportunity to our service members that is something that they can -- they can take back and get that spark going back in their units from where they came.
Okay. Well, and I'll be glad to stay around to answer any questions, as well. And thank you all very much for attending today.
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