Know Your Military

'Bold Assumption' Brings Warrior Games to Tampa

March 15, 2019 | BY C. Todd Lopez

This year’s Department of Defense Warrior Games competition — which enhances the recovery and rehabilitation of wounded, ill, and injured service members through adaptive sports — kicks off June 21.

In past years, the games have been hosted by the Defense Department, the Navy, the Air Force, the Army and the U.S. Olympic Committee. For the first time this year, the games are being hosted by U.S. Special Operations Command on its home turf in Florida’s Tampa Bay area, June 21-30.

Athletes stand on platform.
Warrior Medalists
Medalists celebrate their win in the indoor rowing event of the Department of Defense Warrior Games at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., June 9, 2018. The Warrior Games competition enhances the recovery and rehabilitation of wounded, ill, and injured service members through adaptive sports.
Photo By: Army Sgt. Kent Redmond
VIRIN: 180609-A-CL397-248C

During a news conference to announce this year’s games, Army Gen. Tony Thomas, Socom commander, explained why the 2019 games will be headed farther south than they’ve ever been before.

"I’ve had the great opportunity to participate in the Warrior Games for the last three years over the course of my command tenure," Thomas said. Those games were held in West Point, New York; Chicago; and Colorado Springs, Colorado. The general also said he’s attended the Invictus Games — a similar competition created by Britain’s Prince Harry — in Toronto.

Athletes play wheelchair basketball.
Wheelchair Basketball
Anthony Pearson, Team Air Force member, shoots a free throw during the wheelchair basketball championship of the Department of Defense Warrior Games at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., June 9, 2018. Competing in the games were service members and veterans with upper-body and lower-body limitations, spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain injuries, visual impairments, serious illnesses, and post-traumatic stress.
Photo By: Air Force Senior Airman Dennis Hoffman
VIRIN: 180609-F-SO188-3026C
A soldier's face shows strain as she drives a handcycle up a hill.
Cycle Power
Army Sgt. 1st Class Hyoshin Cha powers a hand cycle up the final hill during a 2018 Department of Defense Warrior Games time trials competition at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., June 6, 2018. DoD photo by EJ Hersom
Photo By: EJ Hersom
VIRIN: 180606-D-DB155-001C

Thomas said Socom has some 15,000 service members in its own warrior care program, including both active duty and retired personnel. Socom has fielded a team in the Warrior Games for almost as long as the games have existed.

"We’ve been participating in these games for almost a decade now," Thomas said. "Why don’t we get a chance to host it?"

The simple answer was that Socom had never asked to host, he said.

An athlete surfaces in swimming pool
Surface Swimmer
Kristen Morris, Department of Defense Warrior Games athlete on Team Air Force, prepares to compete in the swim event during the 2018 Games in Colorado Springs, Colo., June 5, 2018.
Photo By: Air Force Senior Airman Dennis Hoffman
VIRIN: 180605-F-SO188-1746C

"The bold assumption we made was, 'Do we think the Greater Tampa, St. Petersburg, Clearwater environment would support us?'" he said. "We knew, going away, the answer was yes. We went out on a limb a little bit and asked our department, 'Can we host it here?' and at the same time socialized it with the great leadership here in the local area. The outpouring, as expected, has been nothing short of extraordinary."

Around 300 athletes will participate in the 2019 Games. The Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force and Socom are again fielding teams, as are allied nations including the United Kingdom, Australia, and Canada. And this year for the first time, both Denmark and the Netherlands will participate.

There service members race on a track.
Sprint Ahead
Army Staff Sgt. Ross Alewine, left, Air Force veteran Russell Logan, and Army 1st Sgt. Jarrid Collins of Team SOCOM leave the starting blocks of the 100-meter track event, June 2, 2018, at the Department of Defense Warrior Games.
Photo By: Master Sgt. Stephen Schester,
VIRIN: 180602-F-AU128-976
Athletes ride bicycles
Cycling Competition
Wounded, ill and injured service members and veterans compete in cycling during the 2018 Department of Defense Warrior Games at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., June 6, 2018.
Photo By: Roger L. Wollenberg, DOD
VIRIN: 180606-O-BB251-242C

Those athletes will compete in 11 adaptive sports, including archery, cycling, indoor rowing, powerlifting, shooting, sitting volleyball, swimming, time trial cycling, track and field and wheelchair basketball.

The Warrior Games, Thomas said, is "a showcase of our extraordinary warriors who have been dealt a tough hand of cards in terms of being wounded, ill, or injured across the course of their time in service. But more importantly, it gives them an opportunity to shine and demonstrate their resilience, their extraordinary resilience in the face of those challenges in a variety of adaptive sports programs."

"You will see courage and resilience like you have never seen before," he added. "If you don’t walk away inspired, you don’t have a pulse. It’s that level of commitment and fortitude that’s displayed."

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