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Warrior Games team completes training, ready to compete

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Vanessa Young
  • Defense Media Activity-San Antonio
Members of the Air Force team competing in the inaugural Warrior Games here completed their final week of training May 7.

The 17 wounded, ill and injured Air Force team members will compete against Soldiers, Marines, Coast Guardsmen and Sailors May 10 through 14. The teams will compete in a variety of events including shooting, swimming, archery, sitting volleyball, cycling, track, wheelchair basketball, discus and shot put.

Prior to this week of training, team members trained on their own at their respective bases, while keeping in contact with their coaching staff.

Once the athletes arrived, the Air Force coaches scheduled full days of workouts and practices to prepare them for their events.

"We told them that wherever they were, that was fine; we would meet them at their level," said Cami Stock, the Air Force team head coach. "This training wasn't intended to get the athletes in shape, because they should already be there. This training was intended to get them acclimated to the weather and more prepared for their events."

For Matt Sanders, a former staff sergeant who currently works at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., the first day of track practice in Colorado Springs was a shock.

"It was 32 degrees, there was ice on the ground and it was windy," said Mr. Sanders, who is competing in multiple track and field events. "We ran a couple miles on the track, then we ran on the trail, a total of maybe five miles. The first day they really pushed us. I think that was good because we all motivated each other and ran as a team."

For the team sporting events like wheelchair basketball and sitting volleyball, this week was the first time the athletes had practiced together. For some, it was the first time they had played the sport at all.

The team sports are a really good demonstration of the teamwork the athletes have honed, Coach Stock said. Within 10 minutes they were playing sitting volleyball together and none of them have played the game before.

During the team sports practices, the athletes also learned how to tailor their game to accommodate each other's disabilities.

"We made note of their limitations, but with practice, we were also able to accentuate on what our teammates can do," said Mr. Sanders, who donated a kidney to his sister 2001 and underwent various knee surgeries prior to separating from the Air Force in 2006.

We've seen some amazing strides this week, especially in swimming, Coach Stock said.

During swim practice, 2nd Lt. Ryan McGuire, a below-the-knee amputee from Laughlin AFB, Texas, dove off a starting block, with one leg.

"Some people can't even do that with two legs," Coach Stock said. "It was just amazing."

Coach Stock said she's also impressed by these athletes' attitudes and how they motivate each other.

"They are beat, but they are motivated and they are motivating each other," she said. "Not everyone is going to be on every single day, but if someone else is, they can bring each other up and that's what they are doing."

Mr. Sanders said he's been inspired by what his teammates do despite their various disabilities.

"Knowing that they are in wheelchairs, or they have one leg or they have issues that I don't have, yet they are still trying their hardest makes me push myself," he said. "No matter what, you have to push yourself."

Three days before the start of the inaugural games, Coach Stock said her team realizes the magnitude of what they're about to do and are ready to compete.

"Chief (Master Sgt. Damian) Orslene recently told the team, 'We are the first to have this experience, and I don't know why it happened, but that's amazing,'" she said. "They realize how special it is; they don't take it lightly. They are fired up. They are ready."

For information on the Air Force Wounded Warrior program, go to For information on Warrior Games, go to

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