Buses filled with athletes arrived at the MacDill Air Force Base gymnasium and active and retired service members poured out, ready to take on the challenges of participating and competing in multiple events throughout the week. Some of the athletes will be selected to represent the U. S. Special Operations Command at the Department of Defense competition this summer.
USSOCOM Care Coalition held the 6th Annual Military Adaptive Sports Program All Sports Camp Feb. 23-27, 2015 and hosted 45 wounded, ill and injured service members for a week-long event.
“This sporting event is about the camaraderie and bringing our wounded warriors together through sports as part of their recovery and rehabilitation process,” said Master Sgt. Patrick Gilmore, USSOCOM Care Coalition event coordinator.
Participants are veterans and active duty Special Operations Forces that were given the opportunity to participate in archery, track and field, swimming, shooting, discus, shot put and other sporting events. For some athletes, this is their first-time participating in MASP and for others; it’s becoming an annual event.
“I know what to expect,” said Army Staff Sgt. (Ret.) Roy Rodriguez, a Special Operations Forces athlete. This is his second year participating in the games. “Last year, I showed up at training and I was scoring points and making baskets with my left hand, but when you get to the real games, everybody not only scores with their left and right hands, but they can bounce it off the floor, they can throw it off a shoulder, they can hit it from their head and all of sudden it was like, ‘I have to step my game up so that I can compete against them.’”
During the week-long sporting event, athletes got a chance to compete against the University of South Florida women’s’ volleyball team and USSOCOM command staff in a match of seated volleyball. This year, Sgt. Maj. Bryan B. Battaglia, senior enlisted advisor to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was able to visit and participate on the command staff team. He said that the wounded warriors interaction with the USF team members helps the community understand what it takes to protect America.
Battaglia also expressed his support for programs that help the quality of wounded, ill and injured service members and even gives them an excuse to get together.
“A take away that hit me pretty hard is that these service members, who are wounded, ill or injured, though out of the Special Operations Command or their service branch and no longer serving in uniform, they but still continue to serve,” said Battaglia.
This training camp is designed to introduce participants to new sports, improve their existing skills and also hone skills in preparation for upcoming Defense of Department competitions.