By DoD News
Twenty-five Air Force athletes are one step closer to gold after being chosen to represent the service at the 2011 Warrior Games.
Warrior Games is an Olympic-style event open to all wounded, ill and injured military members and veterans. This year’s event takes place May 16 through 21 in Colorado Springs, Colo.
In February, Air Force Services Agency officials invited 32 athletes to a weeklong training camp here to compete for a shot at becoming part of the Air Force team. Throughout the week, Air Force and volunteer coaches with U.S. Paralympics experience, trained new and returning athletes in archery, cycling, wheelchair basketball, shooting, swimming, track and field and sitting volleyball.
Cami Stock, the Air Force team head coach, said that while athleticism and ability are factors when choosing an athlete for the team, there are two other components she examines.
“We are also looking for a positive attitude and teamwork,” she said. “We are the smallest team so everyone has to do multiple events and it’s a really tiring, grueling time.”
Coach Stock said it is important that the athletes be able to mesh with the team, and bring the teammates up when they are down or tired, and that is what the coaches looked for at training camp.
During training camp, retired Staff Sgt. Ricky M. Tackett, a member of the 2010 Air Force team, looked forward to teaching the new athletes lessons learned from last year’s games, and getting them fired up about representing the Air Force.
“These games make me excited because it is about being athletic and doing your best,” he said, adding that the games also allow for personal growth help and accelerate the healing process.
Retired Staff Sgt. Timothy Anderson, a newcomer to the training camp this year, tried out for sitting volleyball, wheelchair basketball, and track and field events.
“It would be a tremendous accomplishment for me to make the team, but it would be more exciting for my 13-year-old twins,” said Sergeant Anderson who currently works at Warner Robins Air Force Base, Ga. “It would be exciting for them to see that I’ve come a long way since my motorcycle accident and accomplished a lot of things.”
His children will get a chance to see their father compete as he was chosen for the team.
Besides Sergeant Anderson, this year’s team includes:
Senior Airman Matthew Bilancia, Fairfax, Va.
Retired Master Sgt. Kimberly K. Bradshaw, Yorktown, Va.
Staff Sgt. Christopher E. D’Angelo, Malmstrom AFB, Mont.
Tech. Sgt. Israel Del Toro, Lackland AFB, Texas
Staff Sgt. Marc Esposito, Pope AFB, N.C.
Retired Staff Sgt. Jeanne A. Goldy-Sanitate, Rehoboth Beach, Del.
Retired Airman First Class Chatriex Goodson, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Retired Senior Airman Eric M. Grubbs, Roseville, Calif.
Retired Airman 1st Class Delvin McMillian, Maylene, Ala.
Retired Staff Sgt. Gregory J. Miller, Wentzville, Mo.
Retired Staff Sgt. Jason M. Morgan, McKinney, Texas
Retired Chief Master Sgt. Damian Orslene, Ocean Springs, Miss.
Claude E. Owens, Beavercreek, Ohio
Retired Staff Sgt. Stacey L. Pearsall, Goose Creek, S.C.
Cadet Matthew L. Pirrello, Dayton, Ohio
Tech. Sgt. Francis X. Reilly, Hurlburt Field, Fla.
Michael P. Rushton, Cameron, N.C.
Matt Sanders, California City, Calif.
Retired Senior Master Sgt. Noel Sepulveda, Severen, Md.
Retired Staff Sgt. Jack L. Shaw, Marine on the Croix, Minn.
Retired Maj. Gwen M. Sheppard, Brown Deer, Wis.
Retired Tech. Sgt. Christopher M. Slaydon, Avondale, Ariz.
Retired Senior Airman Jennifer M. Stone, Denver, Co.
Retired Staff Sgt. Ricky M. Tackett, Tucson, Ariz.
The alternates for the games are: retired Staff Sgt. Jason T. Butterfield, South Jordan, Utah; retired Capt. Anthony A. Pantlitz, Navarre, Fla.; retired Master Sgt. Thomas E. Sansone, Randolph Air Force Base, Texas; and Master Sgt. Simon J. Wess, Malmstrom AFB.
Last year, each member of the Air Force team earned a medal. This year, Coach Stock said earning medals would be great, but it is not her top priority for her athletes.
“First and foremost, I just want them to do their best,” she said. “If I know they are doing their best then I’m going to be proud of them no matter what. Obviously, a medal for all of them would be icing on the cake and I would be ecstatic, but if that doesn’t happen and they give it their best then I would be happy.”
Now that the athletes have been chosen, coaches are compiling training programs for them and are connecting them with Paralympics clubs in their area to train. The athletes will attend a second training camp at the U.S. Air Force Academy a week before the 2011 Warrior Games.
The Warrior Games are developed through the partnership between the U.S. Olympic Committee, Defense Department and sponsors.
(Staff Sgt. Vanessa Young, Defense Media Activity, contributed to this article)