U.S. Paralympics Military Program Teaming with Army Warrior Transition Units

Dec. 23, 2008, 12:40 p.m. (ET)
The U.S. Paralympics Military Program is partnering with Army Warrior Transition Units (WTU) across the country to help establish fitness and recreation programs for injured soldiers.

These programs focus on getting the soldiers back into a healthy, active lifestyle with a number of activities being offered multiple days per week at each installation.  Activities can include basketball, swimming, sitting volleyball, spinning, archery, walking/running and strength and conditioning.

"Establishing fitness and recreation programs at Warrior Transition Units is a critical part of what we're doing to help serve injured military personnel," said Roger Neppl, U.S. Paralympics Director of Military Programs. "It is vitally important that these men and women have access to programs right in their own communities so they can be physically active on a regular and ongoing basis."

The activities are conducted right on the post by Army squad leaders who have been trained by U.S. Paralympics staff and coaches. Easy access to the activities is one of the most important benefits of the WTU program.

"These programs are great opportunities for soldiers who cannot participate in the usually Army standard PT (physical training), which consists of traditional sit ups, push ups, and running," said Captain Jonathan H. Colledge, Task Force Phoenix (Warrior Transition Unit) at Ft. Lewis, Washington. "These sports will instill the competitive, warrior spirit and increase the level of fitness for soldiers who are unable to participate in the regular Army PT programs."

Participants not only raise their fitness level and enjoy participation in physical activity, but reap many other benefits, too, says Sgt. Alberto Benitez, a Warrior in Transition with the Warrior Transition Battalion's Charlie Company at Ft. Lewis.

"Physically, my cardio fitness is getting better and I have improved use of my lower extremities," said Sgt. Benitez.  "The program has so many benefits for conditioning and it helps relieve stress, too. It also gives the opportunity to interact with other people."

For Captain Colledge, a measure of the program's success will be to see how each WTU grows in the coming years, including how the community rallies around the project.

"We would like the communities to be able to offer some sort of exciting and enjoyable exercise program in the local community, which meets the limitations and needs of the wounded soldier," stated Colledge.

In addition to Ft. Lewis, these programs are being implemented at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky; Ft. Carson, Colorado and Ft. Bragg, North Carolina.  There are more than 500 soldiers assigned to each of these units, and U.S. Paralympics is looking to start programs at seven or eight more WTUs in 2009.