JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas –
Eighty-five Air Force wounded warriors from around the nation participated in a week-long adaptive sports camp Sept. 16-20 at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph.
The camp, offered by the Air Force Wounded Warrior Program, featured a variety of physical activities: air rifle, air pistol and archery; cycling; sitting volleyball; swimming; wheelchair basketball and yoga.
For some athletes, it was their first time attending an adaptive sports camp. For others, the event offered training grounds to prepare them for the Warrior Games scheduled in May.
"It's an opportunity for these athletes to focus on their abilities and not their disabilities," Tony Jasso, Air Force Wounded Warriors Adaptive Sports program manager, said. "Adaptive sports opens doors in the lives of our athletes that injury and illness once closed."
For Air Force Staff Sgt. Daniel Crane, a security forces patient at JBSA-Lackland, a shotgun-blast injury he sustained to his right arm a year ago from an anti-military local in Guam, where he was stationed, didn't waver his passion for sharpshooting.
"I've always been a pretty good shot, which I owe to my security forces training," Crane, who is naturally right-handed, said. "This is my second sports camp and I plan to refine my aim so I can represent the Air Force in shooting events at the Warrior Games."
Crane now fires air rifles and air pistols with his left arm, but said his "fundamentals are still there."
Local Army and Marine wounded warriors competed against Air Force warriors in wheelchair basketball and sitting volleyball for part of the camp.
San Antonio has the largest Paralympic program in the nation, which bolsters the local wounded warrior sports scene, Jasso said.
"We offered the opportunity (to join the program) to 700 new athletes," he said. "We're helping them form a brand new identity, creating a paradigm shift from patient mentalities to athlete mentalities."
Andy Harris, a retired Air Force technical sergeant who joined a wounded warrior network in Virginia, traveled to JBSA-Randolph for his first adaptive sports camp.
"I work as an artist and I tend to stay at home a lot," Harris, who's diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, said. "My wife heard about the camp and I thought it'd be helpful to learn some adaptive techniques."
By day two of the camp, Harris already formed a bond with several others and said "it's incredible to be in a room full of people you don't have to explain yourself to."
The camp also helped relieve his PTSD, Harris said.
"My results are measured with smiles," Jasso said. "I can see an impact on our wounded warriors' recoveries. They arrive without knowing anyone and leave with many friends."
Staff Sgt. Jared Miller, 902nd Security Forces Squadron combat arms instructor, was with other squad members at the local shooting range, watching Air Force wounded warriors - some with walking sticks and others without limbs - showcase their skills for three days.
"They give us a sense of pride knowing they can go downrange, make great sacrifices and come back to do this," Miller said.
The camp at JBSA-Randolph was the last adaptive sports camp before the Warrior Games selection camp in February.
Athletes selected at the February camp will represent the Air Force at Warrior Games 2014.
Air Force wounded warriors interested in joining the adaptive sports program can call Jasso at 565-5265. For more information, visit www.woundedwarrior.af.mil.