Wounded warriors square off for commander's cup event
Stars and Stripes October 5, 2012
GRAFENWÖHR, Germany — Sometimes a bike ride is more than just a bike ride.
For Spc. Michael Robinson, a former mortarman injured two years ago in Afghanistan and now heading toward a medical discharge, cycling has evolved from physical therapy to attitude adjustment.
“I have some definite anger issues — almost regret — because I can’t stay in or serve anymore,” Robinson said. “When I jump on the bike, I can put that anger to the pedals and get it out.”
Thursday, Robinson was one of 25 wounded, injured or ill soldiers competing in a cycling event here with the Warrior Transition Battalion-Europe. The competition marked the second leg of the battalion Commander’s Cup, a multisport tournament that pits members of the unit’s three companies against each other in adaptive sports such as wheelchair basketball and seated volleyball.
Battalion leaders created the competition last year in an effort to encourage soldiers who are recovering from medical issues that limit their ability to train in normal units.
“It kind of gives them a different outlet,” said C Company commander Capt. Brenna Rice. “If you only focus on going to appointments and don’t have anything else to get ready or train for, it’s kind of boring.”
The competitions also unite a battalion spread across Germany. In the U.S., companies of the same Warrior Transition battalion are typically located on the same installation, said Lt. Col. Douglas Galuszka, commander of the Europe battalion.
“We’re very different,” he said. “The fact we can get 50 people together in one place, it’s rare. It’s a big deal.”
The WTB-Europe has seen constant change in assignments since its creation in 2007. The units grew quickly out of the gate, as commanders sought to assign nondeployable soldiers before taking a unit downrange. Warrior Transition leaders tightened entry requirements in 2009, and numbers have since fallen.
Galuszka said the battalion currently counts 145 soldiers.
The Army is conducting a review of all Warrior Transition units to determine appropriate size, according to the Warrior Transition Command.
Thursday, riders competed on upright bicycles or recumbents, the three-wheeled bicycles in which the rider reclines while pedaling. C Company, which won last year’s trophy, emerged with the most points.
Archery marks the third leg of the competition, in November, with wheelchair basketball and seated volleyball in December. Relay running was the first event, held earlier this year. The trophy will be presented in December.
Robinson, who finished with the top 20k time of 38:38, said the Commander’s Cup is a positive addition to a unit that wants to focus on abilities versus disabilities.
“Doing events like this makes soldiers feel less stagnant, like they’re doing something,” he said.