By Karen Parrish
DoD News, Defense Media Activity
WASHINGTON, June 29, 2015 – The Defense Department’s 2015 Warrior Games, which concluded yesterday at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, provided an Olympic-style spectacle of warrior-athletes competing in games of skill not too different from the “arts of war.”
Archery and shooting, cycling and swimming, track and field, volleyball and basketball events displayed the strength, stamina, balance, spatial awareness, muscular control and sheer will that power top professional athletes as well as successful service members.
Leader Involvement, Support
Defense Department leaders and senior military commanders have made programs like the Warrior Games a priority in the years since American forces became engaged in and bore the costs of two long 21st-century wars.
As a recent example, Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work and his wife, Cassandra, visited and spoke with athletes and families during several of the Warrior Games events. And periodic visits to the wounded and to Arlington National Cemetery have become a voluntary duty undertaken by most civilian and uniformed leaders.
The Military Adaptive Sports Program exists to help service members -- primarily those who served and were wounded, injured or became ill during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars -- in regaining “quality of life.”
According to its official website, the program, known as MASP, is designed to engage wounded, ill and injured service members early in individualized physical and cognitive activities outside of traditional therapy settings. The program’s stated goal is “to inspire recovery and physical fitness and encourage new opportunities for growth and achievement.”
The benefits of physical activity for injured service members, the site states, include reduced stress, increased quality of life, lower blood pressure, weight management and enhancement of the rehabilitative process.
Program activities include air rifle, air pistol, skeet and trap shooting; archery; baseball and softball; cross-country and track; cycling; equine; discus, shot put and javelin; fishing and hunting; golf; hiking; kayaking and canoeing; rock climbing; rodeo; sitting volleyball; hockey; snow skiing; surfing; swimming and scuba diving; triathlon; wheelchair basketball; and yoga.
U.S. Special Operations Command administers its own form of rehabilitative sports assistance. The Care Coalition is Socom-led for special operations troops and their families.
Socom Commander Army Gen. Joseph L. Votel is quoted on the coalition’s home page:
"You kept faith with our nation, and we will keep faith with you. The Care Coalition is our action arm to assist in your recovery, rehabilitation and transition. We are committed to you and your family – now, and in the future."
Socom sponsored a team for this year’s Warrior Games, as did the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps. Coast Guard members teamed with Navy sailors, and a team from the United Kingdom, which sponsors the “Invictus Games” -- a sister event to the Warrior Games -- also took part.
Totaling 250 warrior-athletes, the teams competed for medals in seven events June 19-28: cycling, wheelchair basketball, sitting volleyball, archery, shooting, field events and swimming.
Each service develops and emphasizes in its members the skills required by its operational domains, typically understood to include ground, sea, air, space and cyberspace. So while soldiers and Marines might be expected to be the top shooters, shipboard volleyball and basketball experience –- earned during long months at sea -– might make sailors more adept at those team sports.
Marine Corps Base Quantico, which is about 30 minutes’ travel from the Pentagon, served as the hosting installation and site of most of this year’s events. The swimming competition took place at Freedom Aquatics in nearby Manassas, Virginia.
The base, known as the “crossroads of the Marine Corps,” spreads over nearly 90 square miles of Virginia, and is marked by hills, trees, trails, streams and the usual neatly demarcated training, working, housing and community service areas common to U.S. military installations worldwide.