Story by Shawn Sprayberry on 04/16/2018The Air Force Wounded Warrior Program is heading to Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, April 16 - 20 for a combined Warrior CARE event and Department of Defense Warrior Games team training opportunity that will include about 180 wounded, ill, and injured Airmen. This will be the fourth year the AFW2 Program has brought these two events to Eglin AFB.
"This is the biggest group we have ever taken to Eglin," said Col. Michael Flatten, chief of the AFW2 Program at the Air Force's Personnel Center. "We're trying to bring as many of our wounded warriors out to these CARE events as possible, introducing them to a higher standard of personalized service. We also want to put a friendly face on a program that helps wounded, ill and injured Airmen, some of whom are facing the toughest challenges of their lives."
The CARE event provides personalized service by giving wounded warriors and their caregivers access to caregiver support training, adaptive sports, mentorships, education, and employment and career readiness guidance. The wounded warriors also have an opportunity to add to their resiliency toolkit by experiencing art, comedy, writing and music in workshops offered throughout the week. The AFW2 Program will also train 11 wounded warriors to be ambassadors by giving them the tools they need to share their personal stories with audiences across the Air Force.
While Eglin AFB is the focal point for the overall event, AFW2 team members will conduct a portion of the training for the Warrior Games team at Hurlburt Field, Florida. The base offered their fitness center and pool for wheelchair basketball, sitting volleyball and swimming. This allows the team to focus on their training for the upcoming 2018 DoD Warrior Games June 1 - 9 at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado, Springs, Colorado.
"It would be difficult for us to try and train our entire Warrior Games team at Eglin while the Warrior CARE event is going on," said Troy Foster, AFW2 Adaptive Sports Program Manager. "Hurlburt is really helping us out by hosting some of our training. It allows us to focus on wounded warriors at Eglin while giving the Warrior Games team a chance to get more in-depth coaching."
Although more than half of this year's Warrior Games team are new competitors, Foster said he is confident they will learn the skills they need to have a successful competition.
"In addition to refining their skills, one of the primary purposes of the training is to build a sense of team,'" he said. "It's important for team members to be held accountable to their teammates and promote a sense of connection that they can rely on throughout their recovery."
Bill Lickman, co-captain of the 2018 Warrior Games team, said, "We can all train on our own at home, but the Eglin event allows the 40 to 50 of us to come together as peers and build relationships with each other as we train. These relationships help galvanize us as we prepare for the Games and will serve as a source of strength when dealing with the challenges to come."
Lickman's co-captain, Joshua Smith, said it's also an opportunity for the more seasoned athletes to mentor new wounded warriors to help them take full advantage of the care events.
"We are able to meet and get to know many of the new wounded warrior athletes," Smith said. "It is important as a representative of the Air Force Warrior Games team to teach them what the AFW2 Program is all about, helping them along their road to recovery."
The AFW2 Program, as part of AFPC, is a Congressionally-mandated and federally-funded organization providing personalized service and support for serious or very seriously wounded, ill or injured Airmen and veterans. Each year, the AFW2 team conducts Warrior CARE events at each of the six regions across the U.S.
For more information, visit www.dodwarriorgames.com or www.woundedwarrior.af.mil.