JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO, Texas —
With the conclusion of Warrior Care Month, it is fitting to end on a note that points to the beginning of a new year.
When a service member is wounded, ill or injured, it takes more than 30 days to heal. It sometimes takes months, even years to adjust to a new normal. One way wounded warriors show their strength is through adaptive reconditioning.
Adaptive reconditioning activities and programs do not focus solely on athletics. Participants engage in the arts, outdoor recreation events, and physical therapy to regain control of all aspects of their lives.
A handful of Soldiers from the Brooke Army Medical Center Warrior Transition Battalion, or BAMC WTB, at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston spent Nov. 10 in the basement of a local high school, working on air rifle and air pistol shooting techniques. What seems like a simple activity to most, encompasses far-reaching properties for those that attended.
Air rifle and air pistol shooting contains basic tenets that can help Soldiers assigned to the WTB, either remain on active duty, or successfully transition to civilian life. Those tenants are assuming a comfortable, steady firing position; aiming, or knowing where your eye is focused; controlling the breathing cycle; and having a proper trigger squeeze.
This is especially true for Staff Sgt. Tiffany Rodriguez-Rexroad. A vehicle/pedestrian accident at Fort Hood, Texas, led to her being assigned to the WTB.
“I was struck by a truck while walking across the street,” Rodriguez-Rexroad said. “My right pelvis was fractured eventually resulting in a total hip replacement. My right tibia was fractured and I now wear a knee brace due to the instability the fracture caused.”
If those injuries weren’t enough, she also received several broken ribs, a punctured lung and lacerations to her forehead.
“Since I wanted to return to duty, I was worried about maintaining my fitness level to Army standards,” Rodriguez-Rexroad said. “I have been able to work on my marksmanship skills while in the WTB so that those skills don’t perish.”
She also participates in hand-cycling, archery, track (wheelchair racing) and field, swimming, wheelchair basketball, kayaking and weightlifting.
Retired 1st Sgt. Pete Carrion, Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps instructor at Central Catholic High School in San Antonio, assists these WTB Soldiers in finding that “comfortable position” and “take aim” at reconditioning in his spare time.
“I don’t like wasting people’s time,” Carrion said. “At the same time, I don’t want to waste the time of the WTB Soldiers.”
Carrion made sure each Soldier gave an assessment of the air rifle and air pistol training session.
“I need to take a little more time with each shot,” Rodriguez-Rexroad said.
Carrion stressed the pattern of her shot group as being more important than hitting the bull’s eye. A shot outside of the pattern is a product of a physical or mental breakdown in the tenants.
Establishing a new normal after being wounded in combat, an illness, or in Rodriguez-Rexroad’s case, an injury relates very much to the tenets of shooting. That service member has to establish a steady position in order to focus on the target or goal of recovery.
Much like controlling breathing, they must learn to control their emotions and the new environment where they find themselves. Finally, if they do not squeeze the trigger properly, their rifle or pistol, just like their recovery, will be misaligned with the target.
Besides returning to duty, Rodriguez-Rexroad has a second goal.
“When I found out that air rifle was one of the sports for the Warrior Games, I started practicing to compete for the games,” she said. “I recently competed in the regional trials and hope to advance to the Army Trials at Fort Bliss, Texas, in March.
Two years ago, Rodriguez-Rexroad had no idea she would be hit by a truck while crossing a street in central Texas. It was the furthest thing from her mind. With her sights set on Fort Bliss this March, her reconditioning and focus has made that truck disappear.