WIESBADEN, Germany (Feb. 12, 2014) – To anyone walking near the Wiesbaden Fitness Center, Thursday, it may have sounded like a battle was in progress.
Inquiring further would’ve revealed that those in the throes of conflict were Soldiers of the Warrior Transition Battalion-Europe, and their Bundeswehr counterparts, competing to amass points for their respective companies in a Company Commander’s Cup Challenge.
Though the Soldiers are temporarily on the sidelines of the Army battle, the day of competition in seated volleyball and adaptive wheelchair basketball seemed to rouse their internal fight.
“It’s very serious to them,” said Linda Steil, military adaptive reconditioning site coordinator, about the outing that brought wounded, rehabilitating Soldiers from the various companies in Baumholder, Grafenwöhr, Kaiserslautern, Vilseck and Warendorf. “It is a very important part of the [Warrior Transition Unit] and this provides a competitive environment for Soldiers.”
While an unsuspecting spectator might hastily draw certain conclusions of the athletes competing, the battalion commander said that adaptive sports therapy is a significant part of Soldiers’ therapy.
“Interaction is a huge part of the healing process,” said Lt. Col. Douglas Galuszka, WTB-Europe commander, who said that such events are designed to encourage socialization and engagement, and to offer constructive and healthy alternatives to encourage recovery for the Soldiers while assigned to the unit. “We focus on what the Soldiers can do, and not on what they can’t.”
Conditioning is the main focus, but “socializing is just as important” in their recovery.
Soldiers from the Sportschule der Bundeswehr in Warendorf, responding to the invitation of Galuszka, joined in on competition. The participation gave the Soldiers another chance to connect with their American counterparts and to get an understanding of how the U.S. Army uses adaptive sports competition to help in the recovery of wounded Soldiers.
“We use these types of events as a reward to our Soldiers for accomplishing their personal rehabilitation goals,” said Bundeswehr Capt. Julian Tatje, physical therapy trainer, who said the German military offers few competitive adaptive sport opportunities. He said that the German Soldiers generally get individual physical training plans — focused on core support and functional training — and psychological evaluation and are released back to their units (all over Germany) to continue their individual recovery as a part of the Bundeswehr program.
Steil said the presence of the German team enhanced the atmosphere of competition because the playing field seemed more leveled.
“It adds a whole new component because they are playing at the same level,” she said, explaining that the team, comprised of Soldiers injured on active duty, got special training to prepare them for competition.
The event was one of several preliminary events leading up to the finale challenge slated for late spring.