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August 9, 2013

Adaptive Sports Camp promotes teamwork, healing

Dan Neild, 56th Medical Group, Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., aims his air rifle at a target during the Air Force Wounded Warrior Adaptive Sports Camp July 31 at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. Neild and other Airmen participated in several sports clinics at the Warrior Fitness Center and around Nellis AFB including wheelchair basketball and sit volleyball.

 

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. — Wounded warriors from around the country met at the Warrior Fitness Center here July 29 – Aug. 2 for the re-vamped Air Force Wounded Warrior Adaptive Sports Camp featuring a variety of physical activities aimed at promoting healing and camaraderie.

The event featured only wheelchair basketball in previous camps, however, past success warranted increased efforts this time around. The increased scope of the event made it a perfect fit for Nellis AFB’s new $25 million Warrior Fitness Center, which offers more than 110,000 square feet of training area.

Among the sports offered to injured veterans and active-duty service members were sit volleyball, wheelchair basketball, swimming, cycling, yoga, target shooting and archery.

“The program is designed to inspire these [service members] to get up, get out and get involved in some exercise programs,” said Larry Bridges, 99th Force Support Squadron sports director. “We’re really glad to be doing this because we know it makes a difference; everybody involved seems to enjoy it a lot.”

The wide variety of activities were selected specifically to introduce wounded warriors to events featured in the Warrior Games, which are held annually and open to wounded, ill and injured service members representing each branch of the military.
 

Gwen Sheppard, Air Force Wounded Warrior Air Rifle and Archery teams member, mentors Haley Gilbraith, 315th Training Squadron imagery analyst out of Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas, on the air rifle during the Air Force Wounded Warrior Adaptive Sports Camp July 31 at Nellis AFB, Nev. Gilbraith was participating in the three day Air Force Wounded Warrior Adaptive Sports Camp event which offered a variety of sports clinics to service members from across the country.

 
While many of the sports offered during the camp are based on the spirit of competition, winning was never the highest priority. Athletes were joined by Warrior Games volunteers from around the country and attended small group clinics where they practiced the fundamentals of each sport building teamwork and camaraderie along the way.

Among the volunteers were coaches who brought valuable experience competing internationally in their respective sports, many of whom were prior service or active-duty service members injured in warzones or at home.

“For me the program has changed my life immensely,” said U.S. Air Force retired Maj. Gwen Shepard, a member of the Air Force Wounded Warrior Air Rifle and Archery teams who shared her skills and knowledge throughout the event.

After a deployment to Baghdad, Iraq, in 2003, Shepard returned with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder along with multiple joint issues and has dedicated her post-military life to helping others to recovery through sports.

“I’m so honored and blessed to be able to give back to my fellow warriors because we’re all the same; we’re all healing,” she said.
 

Ryan Pinnie, an adaptive sports camp participant, looks for a teammate to pass to during a wheelchair basketball scrimmage at an Air Force Wounded Warrior Adaptive Sports Camp July 31 held at the Warrior Fitness Center at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. More than 30 Air Force wounded warriors attended the two-day adaptive sports camp featuring wheelchair basketball, sitting volleyball, yoga, swimming, air rifle/pistol shooting and track and field designed to help them overcome their challenges and enjoy an active lifestyle.

 
A favorite among many athletes was the sit volleyball clinic lead by two-time Olympian Kari Miller, a former Army sergeant and current member of the U.S. women’s Paralympic team. After returning from a deployment to Bosnia and short assignment in Korea, Miller was hit by a drunk driver resulting in a collision that took both of her legs.

Standing tall atop two prosthetic legs overlooking athletes sitting on the floor, Miller ran fast-paced drills that created teamwork among strangers and left smiles on the faces of participants.

“It’s all about coming together, having real fun and realizing that we’re not alone,” Miller said as the athletes ran through a hitting and blocking drill. “Having the opportunity to teach the sport that helped me heal means a lot to me; I love seeing them enjoy it.”

Two days of rotating through each clinic and gaining the basic skills finished with a game day where teams were chosen based on the strengths of each individual. Many athletes left the Warrior Fitness Center after the closing ceremony Aug. 1 with new interest in a sport they can pursue for the rest of their lives.

For Steve Otero, a Warrior Games peer mentor and Air Force veteran who now works full-time for the program, events like the Adaptive Sports Camp have a continued positive effect on his life.

“I got out of the Air Force still struggling with the PTSD that ended my career,” Otero said. “But during the time that I’ve been involved with the Air Force Wounded Warrior Program, my entire outlook has changed; attending the event this year as a mentor gives me the opportunity to share that feeling with others.”

 

Kari Miller, U.S. Women’s Sitting Volleyball Paralympic athlete and two-time silver medalist, teaches wounded warriors how to block during the Air Force Wounded Warrior Adaptive Sports Camp at the Warrior Fitness Center July 31 at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. Miller, an Army veteran, coached Air Force wounded warriors on the fundamentals of sitting volleyball.

 

Air Force wounded warriors play wheelchair basketball against the Las Vegas Paralympic team during the Air Force Wounded Warrior Adaptive Sports Camp at the Warrior Fitness Center Aug. 1 at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. Participants of this event include active-duty, retired and medically discharged wounded warriors.

 

A prosthetic leg brace stands on the sidelines while its owner participates in a sit volleyball clinic during the Air Force Wounded Warrior Adaptive Sports Camp at the Warrior Fitness Center July 31 at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. The camp is designed to introduce wounded warriors to sports that are featured in Paralympic competitions such as the Warrior Games.




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