Military News

Monday, June 15, 2015

Face of Defense: Soldier Finds New Ways to Take Flight

By Flavia Hulsey
Western Regional Medical Command

FORT BELVOIR, Va., June 15, 2015 – Army Chief Warrant Officer 3 Timothy Sifuentes has flown more than 2,300 hours and completed nearly 1,000 combat missions in an OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopter. Flying is a part of who he is. So when injuries to his back and knee and a tear in his right glute forced him out of the cockpit, he had to find a new way to soar.

Sifuentes is preparing to compete in the Department of Defense Warrior Games at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, June 19-28.

“What do I think I’ll get out of the Warrior Games experience? A new challenge -- a new me, if you will,” said Sifuentes, a Glendive, Montana, native, and a former Fort Riley Warrior Transition Battalion soldier, now with the 1st Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Infantry Division.

“Yeah, I know I’ll never be 100 percent where I was prior to my injuries,” he added, “but I can establish a new baseline.”

Sifuentes, a former runner, was able to use cycling to recover from injuries, thanks to the adaptive reconditioning program offered through the Warrior Transition Battalion. He will compete in cycling, swimming and field events at the Warrior Games.

Different, But Therapeutic

“Once I couldn’t compete in [running] any more and I started the recovery process, I thought, ‘Let me give cycling a chance,’” he said. “Although much different, still, there are a lot of similarities. It’s very therapeutic for me. So you can go out and do a 10-mile run or you can go ride 30 miles. It’s just an opportunity to go clear your head. That’s the part I enjoy.”

Sifuentes also said he enjoys hitting new benchmarks in his fitness. When he began cycling, he noted, 10 miles was hard. He recently completed 100 miles over two days and has his sights set on other long-distance cycling challenges.

He’s also enjoyed adding sports to his workout routine. He started swimming after completing physical therapy in the pool sparked his interested in the sport. Swimming, combined with field events such as shot-put and discus provide therapeutic benefits to his recovery, Sifuentes said.

“The biggest thing when you get an injury is it’s not only debilitating on your body, but also the mental aspect,” he said. “It’s very self-defeating sometimes, and it’s easy to sit on the couch and go, ‘Hey, you know what, I don’t want to do anything today.’ But when I have something to strive for -- the Warrior Games, the Army Trials, things like that where I push myself -- I can look at the big picture.”

Looking Toward Second Career

In the bigger picture, Sifuentes is looking toward a second career. He will retire from the Army in April.

“When you’ve done a job for so long, it becomes a part of who you are and a part of your identity,” he said. “And that was the most daunting task for me –- to get back out there and look at a potential professional growth and where I could go in a new career. But I’ll be 37 years old, well young enough to get another job and do something productive for society.”

While Sifuentes was in the Warrior Transition Battalion, he worked with the staff to develop a transition plan in case he was unable to complete his time in the Army. He even completed job interviews that led to conditional offers. And though he chose to finish his Army career, the skills he learned will serve him well in his next phase, he said.

Advice for Others

Sifuentes said he encourages all soldiers facing an injury or illness that could alter their military career to give the Warrior Transition Battalion a shot.

“At least give it a chance -- give it a shot,” he said. “Don’t dwell on what you can’t do. Think, ‘What can I do?’”

It’s a lesson he also hopes to teach his five children, Sifuentes added.

“There’s ups and downs in life –- challenges –- but I think that makes us who we are,” he said.

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