Monday, September 03, 2012

Family Supports Marine During Paralympic Competition

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
American Forces Press Service

LONDON, Sept. 3, 2012 – The support of family helps to keep a service member grounded, whether serving in the military or competing in sports, the only active duty U.S. Marine in the 2012 Paralympic Games said here today.

Marine Corps Cpl. Rene Renteria, a radar repairman by trade and assigned to the Wounded Warrior Battalion at Camp Pendleton, Calif., is one of three active-duty service members competing in the Paralympic Games. He credits his family with keeping him focused, especially during tough times.

“I have wife and a daughter,” he said. “[They're] who I'm here for. They help me keep my head up, with whatever goes on. [Sometimes] it’s a struggle – I guess it's just all mental.”

Renteria said his wife was able to travel to Great Britain, along with his sister, to watch the Paralympic Games, but his daughter is in the United States with his parents.

The U.S. Paralympic soccer team forward, a native of Sun Valley, Calif., said his four years of military service have helped him reach the Paralympics. He has served a deployment [to Afghanistan, and he played on the 2010 All-Marines soccer team.

The first two games here have not gone well for the U.S. team, with losses to Ukraine, 9-0, and today to Brazil, 8-0. But Renteria still is proud of the team's efforts.

“Regardless of the score, we're going out there to compete,” he said. “We've got to push ourselves to be better than the last play we just did. We have to try to focus, and you've got to have your head up.” Great Britain is next up for the U.S. team tomorrow.

Renteria shared his thought process as he competes on the field and leads his team, trying to keep them as competitive as possible.

“You're trying to help the team,” he said. “You want to be able to support your team with whatever you do. I try to be one of the best. I try putting myself in the right position at the right time. It's exciting.”

The other Marines in his unit was very excited when they found out he would be competing in London, Renteria said. “[My unit was] more excited than I was coming here, just because I'm the first active from the Wounded Warrior [Battalion] to go to the Paralympics,” he added.

“It's an exciting, surreal moment. So I'm just waiting to see what [reaction] I go back to,” he said with a laugh.

Renteria said he was able to join the U.S. Paralympic soccer team through a sports medicine specialist at the Wounded Warrior Battalion who previously worked for the U.S. Olympic Committee and assisted him in contacting the team.

“My goal today was to go home with a medal,” Renteria said. “Just having a good experience and to win. I don't want to leave without a win.” He said he'll remain upbeat and “just keep my head up, and I know that things [will] always get better.”

Meanwhile, his teammate, Gavin Sibayan, a retired Army veteran and defender/midfielder for the team, reflected on the transition from being a service member to a Paralympic athlete.

“It's awesome to go from defending your country to competing for your country,” he said.

Archery Quarterfinals Pit U.S. Teammates Against Each Other

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON – A quarterfinals archery match here today thrilled the 2012 Paralympic Games crowd, as two U.S. teammates squared off in a tight contest that came down to the last arrow.

Shooting at the Royal Artillery Barracks, retired Army veteran Dugie Denton faced teammate Matthew Stutzman – known as “The Armless Archer” -- during the Men's Individual Open Compound Quarterfinals match.

“They're just the same as anybody else out there,” Denton said. “We bring a team, but we're individual shooters. So it's still on the individual.”

Following the grueling match in which nearly every arrow hit the yellow portion of the target for a 9- or 10-point score, a Paralympic commentator offered that it may have been the best match the Paralympics and Olympics had seen this year.

At one point, Denton hit three straight bull’s eyes, scoring a perfect 30 for the set, but he didn’t win his match.

“It was good shooting,” Denton said. “[Stutzman] didn't make a mistake, and I did. That's all that matters. Everybody makes a mistake – we're only human.

“It's unfortunate to shoot against your own teammate, because you know one of you is going home,” he continued. “I'd like to see both of us meet up [at the] end so we can shoot for the gold and silver.” The match between the two archers was close that the three-arrow-per-round, five-set match wasn't decided until the 30th arrow was fired. The very last arrow, as a dramatic announcer pointed out, decided the match's outcome.

“I gave it away,” said a disappointed, but upbeat Denton. “When I went to tip down, I just relaxed, and when you relax that hinge fires. And that's just how it is.” The archer said there weren't any technical issues as he worked through the match, but the hinge, ultimately, cost him advancement to the semifinal round.

“It was just the balance issue with tipping backwards,” he explained. “Nothing fancy – simple. It happens occasionally.”

Despite losing to his teammate, Denton said he looks forward to competing in the 2016 Paralympic Games.

The retired soldier noted he deals with effects from a traumatic brain injury, has reduced balance from a past ruptured eardrum, and had a plate put in his ankle after being shot during his military service. But he credited his ability to perform well and his disciplined demeanor to his previous military service.

“I feel a lot calmer than I think most of these guys do,” he said. “The mental training you go through in basic training and being deployed from overseas, … I think it helps a guy out a lot.”

Denton made no excuses for his loss as he spoke to reporters after the match, and he lauded the competition.

“The competition was spectacular,” he said. “It makes a guy feel good, except for that last arrow. [It's] just how she goes, and that one went high.

“I was hoping not so high,” he added with a chuckle.

Denton compared the moment of his hinge mishap to his other favorite pastime – fishing. “[It's] like catching the big fish – they always break off at the boat.”

The Paralympian, who lives in Montana, said he will enjoy the rest of his time in Great Britain with his wife and mother.

Stutzman stopped by and expressed his admiration for Denton. He said their competitive matches are the norm.

“This guy is insanely awesome,” Stutzman said. “We go back and forth all of the time, and most of the time, he comes out on top. It's always tough. [He's a] great guy.”

Bonhomme Richard Tests Emergency Response Capabilities

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Karen Blankenship, Amphibious Squadron 11 Public Affairs

USS BONHOMME RICHARD, At Sea (NNS) -- Sailors aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) and Marines from the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) conducted a mass casualty drill to test emergency response capabilities, Sept. 3.

The drill was an all-hands effort designed to see how well medical personnel from Bonhomme Richard and the 31st MEU work together to respond to an emergency situation.

"When you talk about mass casualties, the idea is to see what level you're at to avoid becoming overwhelmed with the number of casualties," said Chief Hospital Corpsman Jacoby Flemming, who is attached to the 31st MEU. "It tests your capabilities so you know what you can do and what you can't in that type of situation."

The drill was conducted as a part of Amphibious Integration Training (AIT), which provides the initial opportunity for the Bonhomme Richard Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) to conduct operational maneuvering from sea to shore before supporting multilateral exercises, contingency operations, or humanitarian assistance and disaster relief missions.

The purpose of mass casualty training is to ensure that casualties are assessed, triaged and evacuated from the scene quickly and efficiently.

During the scenario there were between 30-60 casualties with varying degrees of injuries. Medical personnel quickly assessed the injured and evacuated them according to their triage category.

Triage categories range from red, which indicates the patient needs immediate medical care, to black, for those who will not likely survive. Medical personnel must decide quickly which patients to treat and how soon that treatment needs to be done.

"I think this drill is very important because in our minds we might know what to do but when we come together as a team, we have to make sure we are a well-oiled machine," said Cmdr. Roseanna Chandler, a nurse anesthetist. "We need to make sure that everybody is confident with performing their tasks."

The Navy's goal to maintain mission readiness includes training to ensure that Sailors and Marines are able to respond quickly and adapt to new situations.

"This drill helps train people so everyone is aware of what's going on especially since there are always new people coming in and out with the MEU and on the ship," said Flemming. "It gives them a chance to work together and communicate because we have so many different pieces to coordinate to accomplish the mission."

In addition to AIT, the ARG is also scheduled to participate in Certification Exercise and Amphibious Landing Exercise while on deployment on the Western Pacific.

Bonhomme Richard, commanded by Capt. Daniel Dusek, is the lead ship of the only forward-deployed ARG and is currently operating in the 7th Fleet Area of Operations.

Navy Lieutenant Sets Record En Route to Paralympic Gold Medal

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON – The United States had the Olympic performance of Baltimore native Michael Phelps to celebrate last month, and now the nation can rejoice in the dominating performance of U.S. Paralympic swimmer Navy Lt. Bradley Snyder.

Snyder carried over his strong performance in June’s U.S. swimming trials by setting a Paralympic record in his qualifying event here Aug. 31 for the 100-meter freestyle and earning a gold medal in the final round.

“It's really crazy. … It's really loud in here,” Snyder said following his record-setting qualifying swim. “It's exciting. We were able to go out and do what we were wanting to do. I was pretty happy to go out and get the time I got tonight.”

After Snyder swam the 100-meter freestyle in 57.18 seconds to set the Paralympic record, he reflected on the feeling of stepping out in front a huge crowd to represent the United States, saying it was “a huge comfort” getting into the water. “I've never walked out in front of this many people,” he said. “[It's] very crazy, and a lot of excitement. The second I hit the pool, it felt natural again. It felt like I was in my zone, so it felt really good.”

After earning gold medal in the final round for the 100-meter freestyle, Snyder admitted he was a bit nervous.

“It was great – absolutely great,” he said. “There was a lot of uncertainty this morning, a lot of nerves, coming out in front of a crowd this size. It was pretty daunting.

“I kind of underestimated that a little bit,” said he continued. “But once I hit the water, I felt really comfortable and really loose. I was able to get a swim in this morning, and then backed it up tonight. I'm glad to have touched the wall first. I'm really glad to set a precedent that hopefully will last through the week. And I’m glad to represent Team USA.”

The Navy lieutenant, who was blinded while attempting to disable an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan on Sept. 7, 2011, will now face what he considers his flagship event on the anniversary of the accident.

“The anniversary of my accident will be next Friday,” he pointed out. “I'll be competing in my primary event – 400 freestyle. I'm really looking forward to it.”

Brian Loeffler, the U.S. Paralympic swimming team’s coach, explained how he and the Navy lieutenant came together in the first place.

“Brad moved to Baltimore, and it's been a great experience,” he said. “I coached a blind athlete before in Philip Schultz, so I was thrilled when I heard Brad was moving to Baltimore.”

Loeffler echoed Snyder’s assertion that the upcoming 400-meter freestyle is his strongest event. “I'm thrilled he won tonight,” the coach said after Snyder earned the 100-meter gold medal, “but we've really been focused on that 400. Today is gravy in terms of the additional medal spot.”

Kitsap Sailor Awarded Bronze Star Medal For Valor in Combat

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (AW) Lawrence Davis, Navy Public Affairs Support Element-West, Det. Northwest

SILVERDALE, Wash. (NNS) -- A Navy officer was awarded the Bronze Star with Combat "V" for valorous action during Operation Enduring Freedom in a ceremony at Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit (EODMU) 11 Detachment Bangor, Aug. 30.

Lt. j.g. Dominic R. Frank was cited May 22 for exceptionally valorous conduct as the Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Officer in Charge for Operational Detachment Alpha-3336 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom on Jan. 28, 2010. He distinguished himself by supporting the operational detachment alpha with his steadfast courage and professionalism.

The Bronze Star Medal is awarded to an individual who, while serving in or with the military of the United States, distinguishes him or herself by heroic or meritorious achievement while engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States or while engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing foreign force.

Rear Adm. Mark Rich, commander, Navy Region Northwest presented the medal.

"Lt. j.g. Frank is an example of courage and service to everyone in our region, and represents the best our Navy and Nation have to offer," said Rich.

"It's kind of bitter sweet," said Frank after receiving the award. "I mean this was a very bad day where a lot of guys out there did the right thing, like one of the medics who got wounded out there and got a Silver Star. He took a [bullet] in his shoulder and as he was bleeding he was still treating guys on their way to the bird."

On Jan. 28, 2010, the 1st Company, 6th Commandos and Operational Detachment-Alpha 3336 conducted an air assault onto objective Lincoln in the Lak Shar Ghar village, Nadi Ali district to clear a series of compounds suspected of housing enemies of Afghan leaders.

Due to the high number of pressure-plate improvised explosive devices (IED), Frank put himself in front of the assault force and cleared a path from the insertion point up to the target compound using his metal detector and mine probe. Frank commanded his EOD element through sensitive site exploitation and cleared all four compounds of explosive threats.

As one of the Operational Detachment-Alpha medics was wounded and the other treated Commandos, Frank took command of the treatment of an Air Force Combat Controller who received a gunshot wound and fell 14 feet from a rooftop.

"Initial shock, the first thirty seconds, it's a blur," said Frank. "Then as you actually pull down and take a step back, you'll be amazed how you react, and you know, I think it all goes back to the training. Even the most mundane, menial tasks we train on help out there."

Exposing himself to a barrage of enemy fire, Frank led the stretcher teams out of the safety of the compound and to the helicopter landing zone. He provided immeasurable support to the Operational Detachment-Alpha and engaged the enemy in 270-degree battle with complete disregard for his own personal safety.

"To be honest, I was more concerned about my guys' well-being and making sure they were safe than I was returning fire to the enemy," said Frank.

Frank attributed his achievements much to the efforts of his team and said he felt lucky to be alive.

"It's like, I feel good that I got the award but at the same time not," said Frank. "I got this award just supporting my guys and I'm just glad I made it out of that one."

 A native of East Liverpool, Ohio, Frank joined the Navy in 1995. Currently, he is serving as EODMU 11 shore-based Detachment Bangor OIC responsible for EOD strategic weapon, IED, surface, chemical, biological, radiological, and underwater response for Navy Region Northwest.