Fort Lewis Warrior Transition Battalion Hosts Paralympics Sports Camp
By Navy Lt. Jennifer Cragg
Special to American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 4, 2009 Wounded warriors will get a chance to compete in sports while working toward their rehabilitation this week when the Warrior Transition Battalion on Fort Lewis, Wash., hosts a Paralympics Military Regional Sports Camp.
More than 30 WTB soldiers and veterans are scheduled to participate in the battalion’s first-ever Paralympics sports camp May 5-8. The camp will expose them to adaptive sports as part of their recovery and continued transition in life.
"We are thrilled to host the Paralympics Military Regional Sports Camp here, enabling our warriors and other veterans to improve their physical and mental fitness," Army Lt. Col. K.C. Bolton, Warrior Transition Battalion commander, told listeners of the Pentagon’s “DotMilDocs” webcast April 30.
Bolton said he considers the battalion’s work with U.S. Paralympics one of the most important efforts for his unit and the warriors and veterans they support.
“The camp is a chance for us to showcase the Paralympics movement and get warriors excited about engaging in adaptive sports and maybe inspire them to a lifetime of fitness, regardless of their disability,” he said.
Servicemembers and veterans from around the country will descend on Fort Lewis for the two-day competition to motivate wounded warriors in competition, to foster teamwork, and to improve overall fitness.
Coaches from the U.S. Paralympics team will be running the camp, while Fort Lewis is handling all of the logistics required to put on a large-scale regional sports competition.
“For warriors in transition, we sometime have challenges in helping them find their new normal of what their life is going to be, and through sports we are able in a different way get them out and active and understanding ‘yeah, I can do that,’” Bolton said. “And, getting over that mental block … it is easier when we are throwing them into the sports environment.”
With the help of U.S. Paralympics, the battalion created the “amazing warriors adaptive sports program,” he said, that gives the battalion “a fitness aspect for our comprehensive transition plan.”
Bolton expects at least 40 warriors will compete in the first regional sports camp. Ten of them will represent the Warrior Transition Battalion at Fort Lewis. Adaptive rowing, sitting volleyball, track and field, and swimming are some of the scheduled events.
Sitting volleyball is a favorite. “It is very competitive,” he said. “When I was at Colorado Springs, the Paralympians for sit volleyball absolutely crushed me when we were practicing.”
Paralympics levels the playing field in sports so even non-disabled compete alongside with those with disabilities, Bolton said.
“We are hoping that we get some Paralympians out of it,” he said. “It would be an absolute joy to see one of my former warriors competing at the Olympics in the future.”
The Warrior Transition Unit was one of the recommendations outlined in the Army Medical Action Plan to develop a holistic, sustainable system where soldiers are supported, treated and vocationally rehabilitated to prepare them to successfully return to duty or transition to civilian life.
"The camp allows warriors to build upon not only their physical fitness but also their self-confidence, which is in line with our goals for holistic healing,” Bolton said.
U.S. Paralympics, a division of the U.S. Olympic Committee, offers Military Sports Camps in partnership with community groups and military installations for wounded troops. The camps foster the development of sports and fitness programs for wounded and injured military personnel. Additionally, U.S. Paralympics is helping to connect injured military personnel with sports programming in their local communities so they can continue to participate when they return home.
(Navy Lt. Jennifer Cragg is assigned to the New Media Directorate of the Emerging Media Directorate.)