Fort Hood Sentinel
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MONDAY, NOVEMBER 30, 2015  10:58:10 AM

Army Marathon part of new beginnings at Great Place

Email   Print   Share By Daniel Cernero, Sentinel Sports Editor
January 9, 2014 | Sports
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(Photos by Daniel Cernero, Sentinel Sports Editor)
Six hundred and eleven runners packed the start line outside of the Killeen Civic & Conference Center before daybreak April 21 to begin a new tradition for the Central Texas area – the inaugural Army Marathon, a 26.2-mile run across Bell County before finishing in Temple.

At the conclusion of the race, the marathon’s director, Ed Bandas, couldn’t help but take notice of the runners’ motivation.

“They’re running for the charities represented, they’re running for themselves, for their family, in honor of or in memory of,” he said, “and I can’t tell you how moving it is when someone walks up to me and thanks me for the opportunity to have honored their loved one.”

Meredith Thompson finished her eighth marathon as the top female runner, carrying with her the memories of two fallen comrades as she crossed the finish line of the Army Marathon Sunday in Temple.

“I was running today to honor two Soldiers that I served with when I was active duty – Capt. Ernie Blanco, killed in Iraq in 2003, and Staff Sgt. Stephen Hattamer,” said Thompson, who finished in 3 hours, 9 minutes and 46 seconds. “They were in my thoughts.”

Throughout the race, it was those Soldiers who gave her motivation to power through to the end.

“You think, no matter how bad it hurts, at least you’re here to feel completely everything you can feel as a human being,” she said. “And since you’re here, I think you have to make the most of your life and do everything you can to live your life to the fullest, because there are other people not here to enjoy that.”

Richard Shaw finished in first place with a time of 02:51:21, more than three minutes faster than second-place finisher Michael Madison.

WTB launches adaptive reconditioning program

An adaptive sports program has always been a good tool for giving a wounded warrior the opportunity to continue to play the desired sport, just in a slightly altered manner.

But what about the Soldier who still can’t participate, even with the adaptation? Or what about the Soldier not interested in the sport, or any sports, at


In May, the WTB launched a reformed adaptive reconditioning program, which maintains the sports aspect while adding more activities falling under the categories of cognitive leisure and outdoor leisure.

The program, with Susan Wilson and 1st Lt. Kheela Davis at the helm, was put on display during a kick-off event in which WTB Soldiers were invited out to the picnic area behind the Sportsmen’s Center for a sampling of the many activities currently available.

Activities included horseshoes; ladder golf; bocce; a strategy game table, including Farkel, Mancala and chess; four square; archery and much more.

“It used to be just the adaptive sports program, but we have so many that are injured and cannot do sports,” Wilson explained. “And while you can adapt some sports, you’re missing a large portion of the population that, even when they’re adapted, can’t necessarily do them.”

Wilson said their goal was to help facilitate the rehabilitation process, to help with community integration and to help give wounded warriors certain coping skills by use of recreation and leisure.

During the kick-off, Sgt. 1st Class Roy Reid, a drummer by trade, excelled at things like ladder golf and washers.

“It’s all the wrists,” he said, adding how he enjoys not having to use his injured shoulder. “I’m very coordinated with my hands, and it’s something enjoyable.”

Reid said he participates in strength and conditioning activities, too, but he’s quick to listen to his body to avoid overdoing it.

“If you know what not to do, you can protect yourself,” said Reid, who also has an injured neck and injured knees to go along with his shoulders.

Through these recreation and leisure activities, Wilson said the wounded warriors receive a holistic approach to rehabilitation.

“It helps you socially, emotionally, physically and cognitively,” she said. “You don’t realize the benefits gained from it.

“There’s no anxiety or stress; in fact, it releases that,” Wilson added. “It’s diversional – they get their mind off any issues going on. It’s also self-discovery – ‘I never knew I could do this.’ Because sometimes they get in this mindset of ‘I can’t’ physically.”

New post combatives champ crowned

Pfc. Lucas Greenwalt entered the bout knowing of his opponent’s skill in boxing. His goal was simple: get Spc. Adekunle Okusaga, 62nd Expeditionary Signal Battalion, to the ground as quickly as possible where he could implement his wrestling background.

There was, however, one problem standing in Greenwalt’s way. As the 3rd Cavalry Regiment trooper shot in toward Okusaga’s legs in a takedown attempt, a well-placed uppercut awaited his face.

“He got me right square in the nose,” Greenwalt said. “I thought he broke my nose. I knew he was going to hit me, and I was prepared to take a couple of punches.”

Greenwalt said the blow knocked him out for a split-second, leaving him dazed on the mat struggling to regain position.

“I saw a white flash, I hit the mat,” he said describing the blow’s impact, “and when I came back, I grabbed his leg.”

Eventually, Greenwalt worked Okusaga against the cage. The trooper landed a few punches of his own before taking Okusaga’s back and unleashing punch after punch, forcing the referee to call an end to the fight.

Greenwalt’s victory in the welterweight championship provided 3rd Cav. Regt. with the icing on the cake as the Brave Rifles handedly outscored the competing units to take home the trophy of the 2013 Fort Hood Combatives Tournament Feb. 23 in front of an energized Abrams Physical Fitness Center.

3rd Cav. Regt. entered the finals with a tournament-high six fighters – three in third-place bouts and three in championship bouts.

Going against one of the night’s two female competitors, Pfc. Casey Gonzalez, 1st Brigade Combat Team, was 41st Fires Brigade’s Sgt. Simon Pequeno in a bantamweight bout.

Gonzalez briefly held dominant position during the fight before Pequeno methodically worked into a submission. The win, one of three for 41st Fires Bde. on the final day, helped last year’s champions into second place.

Ben Hogan Classic held on post to benefit Soldiers

Many might know of legendary golfer Ben Hogan’s accomplishments on the links – the winner of nine professional major championships, putting him tied for fourth all-time, and the golf swing everyone strives for.

On March 15, the Great Place witnessed and took part in the Ben Hogan Classic, which helped showcase the type of person the late-Texan was off the course. His legacy, now carried on by the Ben Hogan Foundation, stands in line with a lot of Army principles.

“Their motto, very similar to ours, is courage, competitive spirit and integrity, and that’s absolutely what we’re all about, as well,” Brig. Gen. Dean Milner, III Corps and Fort Hood deputy commanding general (Canada), said before the start of the tournament. “Mr. Hogan was a great believer in the Forces, a great American who served his country as well during World War II. This is just a great tribute.”

With beautiful spring-like temperatures, some 180 Soldiers set out for a round of golf at the Courses of Clear Creek.

In going one step further, the Ben Hogan Foundation also created a day not just for the Soldiers, but for their Families as well.

“This is all about you,” Robert Stennett, the executive director of the Ben Hogan Foundation, said to the crowd of Soldiers. “So we want to do everything that we can do to make sure you have just a tremendous experience today.”

In the afternoon, more than 100 children participated in a golf clinic to learn the basics of golf. The Jolie Holliday Band serenaded guests as they ate dinner to cap off the evening.

“We’re as excited as the base is,” said Stennett, who was taken aback by the enthusiasm shown by the Soldiers in anticipation of the event. “I got here at dawn and there’s 100 people here, two hours before their supposed to be here for when registration opens up. That’s really cool that there’s that much energy and that much enthusiasm.”

24-hour run honors fallen

Losano, Smith, Frazier, Gray, Faley.

These last names, all of fallen Tactical Air Control Party Airmen, are some of the names that graced the headbands of two 11th Air Support Operations Squadron Airmen, Staff Sgts. Mike Morin and Jordan Miller, during the second annual TACP Association 24-hour run, which began March 28 and ended March 29.

The run served as a chance to remember fallen TACPs and raise money for the TACP Association, and the runners cited these names as a source of motivation and strength throughout the grueling 24-hour process.

“It felt great,” Morin said of wearing the headband. “I brought them with me the whole time.”

Miller related how wearing the headband and thinking of those names helped him push through the night and the wee hours of the morning, as it kept things in perspective.

“The pain we went through for 24 hours isn’t really much compared to the Families of the guys who lost a Family member,” Miller said.

Staff Sgt. Stephen Stein, also with 11th ASOS, added one last thought.

“Me and my partner ran 123 miles,” he said, “and it’s the most pain I’ve ever felt, but knowing that we had our brothers up

above running with us kept us going.”

Team Hood had three two-man ultra teams competing throughout the duration of the run, with each teammate alternating hours, totaling 12 hours each. Combined, the three teams tallied 247 miles, and as Stein mentioned, he and his partner Morin put up 123 of those miles.

For perspective, as individuals, each ran more than two marathons over the time span.

Morin added, “It’s been a rough 24 hours.”

89th MPs host golf event for West

The 911 emergency call rang in at 7:29 p.m. April 17 in the small town of West.

Members of the all-volunteer firefighting force quickly assembled and were en route in seven minutes. Just two minutes later, first responders pulled up to a fire at a fertilizer plant.

At 7:54 p.m., the scene took a catastrophic turn when the facility exploded, trapping those same first responders in harm’s way.

“Any small town with a volunteer fire department, to have that kind of response – three trucks in response – that’s pretty impressive,” said Tommy Muska, the mayor of West and a volunteer firefighter himself.

“Those are the guys we lost. They were the go-getters, and they were the first ones to jump in that truck, and unfortunately, we lost them,” Muska added.

At Fort Hood June 7, after more than seven weeks had passed and the nation had begun to shift its focus away from West, Col. Rob Dillon, who serves as the commander of both the Fort Hood Directorate of Emergency Services and the 89th Military Police Brigade, sought to keep attention fixed on the recovering city by holding a benefit golf scramble.

“West was front-page news the day after it happened, and then about a week or two after it happened it’s maybe second-page news, and you’ve had other things happen, other nature disasters in the United States, the attention goes by,” Dillon said. “They may be on third-page news for the nation, but for us, as Fort Hood and neighbors to West, they’re still on the front page. We’re here, and we’re not going anywhere.”

Muska called it a humbling experience to see Fort Hood help raise funds to help get the town back in order.

Dillon said the money raised, a total of $900, was to be focused on the firefighters and their families, who took the significant hit of the explosion.

The commander said that as a first responder himself, watching events like this unfold on live TV, his thoughts immediately turn to the first responders, whose families could be endangered, leaving to rush into danger.

“Our heart went out to their Families,” Dillon said, recalling the night of the explosion.

Fort Hood Fire Chief Billy Rhoads and eight of his crew joined in the large-scale relief effort that descended upon West April 17, aiding in the search-and-rescue mission.

“When we pulled through that night, going from where we were staged to where we were going to start searching, we went right by what was left of their station,” Rhoads said describing the scene. “It was obliterated; it was barely still standing.”

At the end of the golf scramble, Dillon presented Muska and the city of West with the check, attempting to play a role in remembering the ones who didn’t survive.

“When somebody loses one, we all lose one,” Rhoads said of the close connection between firefighters. “In the case of West, we lost the 14 and that hits really hard.”

“Those are the people,” Muska said, “that we cannot forget.”
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