Story and photos by Master Sgt. Jerome S. Tayborn
15th Wing Public Affairs
More than 120 wounded warriors arrived this week at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam (JBPHH) to prepare for the 2014 Wounded Warrior Pacific Invitational.
The WWPI is one in a series of adaptive athletic events leading up to the 2014 Warrior Games, an annual competition among wounded warriors from all branches of military service.
The Air Force athletes trained on the fundamental techniques of cycling, seated volleyball, swimming, track and field and wheelchair basketball. They also scrimmaged against JBPHH Airmen, the Chief’s Group and Pacific Air Forces senior leadership Jan. 5-7.
After the practice competitions, the 30 Air force athletes are facing off against the 90 other athletes for the Wounded Warrior Pacific Invitational, which began Jan. 8 and concludes today.
The scrimmage games help the Air Force wounded warriors prepare for the Invitational.
“Competing in wheelchair basketball is very intense,” said Staff Sgt. Blake Coney, 647th Logistic Readiness Squadron material management specialist and volunteer competitor.
“There’s a lot of multi-tasking involved in the sport. Being able to see the court, pushing the wheelchair and dribbling are all very difficult tasks,” Coney said.
Coney is one of several JBPHH Airmen who volunteered to practice with the Air Force wounded warriors.
“The wounded warriors that I practiced with are really sports enthused and I like that, but they also know how to have fun,” Coney said. “It’s a lot to take in; the biggest challenge was dribbling and controlling the wheelchair. This experience has made me have a lot more respect for these warrior athletes.”
Tech. Sgt. Ryan Pinney, a Wounded Warrior from the Arizona Air National Guard, said these sport camps are fun and help to produce good camaraderie.
“It’s a great opportunity to compete against new players and more experienced players. But every sport still needs structure, and requires a leader or captain within the team. But in these competitions were not focused on rank or titles. It’s not about active duty, National Guard or civilian, it’s all about the camaraderie and the most important aspect of the game is to just have fun,” Pinney said.