Third annual Air Force Trials competition begins

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NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. — U.S. Air Force and Australian wounded warriors gathered together here Feb. 26 to celebrate the opening ceremony of the third annual Air Force Trials competition at the Warrior Fitness Center.
The Air Force Trials is an adaptive sports event designed to promote the mental and physical well-being of seriously wounded, ill and injured military members and veterans. More than 100 wounded, ill or injured service men and women will compete for a spot on the 2016 Warrior Games Team which will represent the Air Force at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in June.
“We have this ceremony to honor these wounded warriors, because we know it took a lot of courage to come here and compete,” said Marsha Gonzalez, Air Force Warrior Care Division deputy. “We want them to know the Air Force still supports them and will continue to support them throughout this week.”
The trials will last through March 3, during which time athletes will compete in seven different events including archery, basketball, cycling, track and field, swimming, shooting and volleyball.
“I am here because I had a difficult time with a traumatic brain injury and post traumatic stress disorder, and events like this have helped with my recovery process,” said Robert Scoggins, Air Force Wounded Warrior. “I love being here, it’s hard to put into words but it is pretty overwhelming the support and effort that everyone here is providing.”
Bill Snodgrass, Air Force Personnel Center executive director, joined Col. Zev York, the 99th Air Base Wing vice commander, and Las Vegas community partners to celebrate the opening ceremonies.
“It’s an honor to be here today with these amazing people,” said Snodgrass. “All these athletes in front of you are people who’ve worked very hard to make it here.”
After Snodgrass’s speech, the Team USA Invictus Games competitors lit the cauldron signifying the beginning of the Air Force Trials. The nine athletes who helped light the cauldron are all Air Force Wounded Warrior veterans who will be competing against other teams from around the world in May.
After lighting the cauldron, members of 66th Rescue Squadron flew two HH-60G Pave Hawks over the crowd, and Staff Sgt. August O’Neil, Air Force Wounded Warrior accompanied by fellow pararescueman Staff Sgt. Nick Robillard, hoisted down to deliver the Wounded Warrior Care Beyond Duty flag which was later presented to Brian and Shirley Churchill.
As the ceremony concluded Airmen, Soldiers and civilians gathered to meet with athletes and discuss the games.
“This week is not just about recovery but redefining what happens to people after an injury, illness or catastrophic event.,” said retired 1st Lt. Rachel Francis, Air Force Wounded Warrior staff member. “My favorite part about this week is when you see a wounded warrior who never thought they had a chance to make the team compete in an event, finish and look up to realize that they were first place, that moment makes all of this worth it.”

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