Thursday, January 31, 2013

A game, a Veteran coach, another way to build a team.

Last night, all of the team members and the majority of the staff attended the Air Force versus Fresno State basketball game. This was an exciting break from the stress of competing. We all took the opportunity to get to know one another in a more relaxed environment and without the stress of fighting for a place on the team. We have approximately 50 competitors, vying for a spot on the 40 person team. Our coaching staff is consistently evaluating our performance. Each aspect of our involvement with the team can influence their decision as to who will make the first cut.

Affability, accountability, and ability to perform the events, all play a significant role in making the team for 2013.

In that order as well. Each coach has experience and expertise which they bring to the table in order to help them figure out which of us may have abilities that can be developed over the next few months.

We are all playing to win. And we all want to represent our branch of service with dignity and respect.

Through the combination of both team sports and individual events, I am personally inspired to perform at a higher level than before coming here.

I just finished my second day of shooting, and now it's off to attempt seated volleyball again for the next few hours. Hopefully, my pain won't be too high, but I'll just have to wait and see.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Air Rifle.

This morning, I discovered an entirely new piece of the competition to be involved in, air rifle.

The air rifle is a .177 pellet rifle with rounds that travel at approximately 28 feet per second.

I was able to practice standing and shooting at 10 meters. This may sound easy, but trust me it's not.

The pellets are extremely sensitive to motion and even the slightest tweak of my torso would cause my shot to be off by a few inches.  

The targets are about two inches in diameter and are simply a black circle inside of a tan barrier.

Due to some of my anxiety, I tend to shake a bit. But when I learned about my breathing a bit more and realized that when in competition I would be able to take over an hour for 40 shots, I was relieved.

After about 20 practice shots, I began to dial in my body positioning, breathing and sight picture.

I am definitely no Marine, but I plan on giving those boys a run for their money in May should I make the Air Force team.

I am still very tired from a lack of sleep, but as each day here in Colorado goes by, I feel a sense of team that is so very rewarding.

As a civilian now, I struggle sometimes to find those around me that I relate to.

I love my job and the friends I have made with my civilian company, but being able to surround myself with fellow combat veterans, sharing a common goal, and forging new friendships, is one of the most rewarding aspects of being invited to participate in these games.

Even if I do not make it past the selection camp, I can say that I gave it my all, I worked as hard as I could and fought to become a valuable member of this team of Veterans.

Mid week, little sleep, drive on.

The Warrior Games is in it's fourth year of existence.

Our head coach, Maj. (Dr.) James Bales is a world class athlete, who also happens to be an orthopedic surgeon.

More than 200 wounded service members and veterans are expected to participate in the games this year.

We will have five U.S. teams representing the Army, Marine Corps, Navy/Coast Guard, Air Force and U.S. Special Operations Command as well as one international team from the United Kingdom.

The seven sports the games encompass are shooting, archery, wheelchair basketball, sitting volleyball, swimming, cycling and track and field.

Today, I am participating in shooting. Both pistol and rifle.

I have never competed in true sport shooting, and look forward to the experience. I mostly shoot skeet, trap, and sporting clays. So the small caliber, air rifle and pistol are going to be a totally new experience.

I am reminded of my first time with an M-16 during basic training at Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonio in December of 2000. 

As an 18 year old kid, with no idea of what lie in store for me during my military career, I was just as jaded as any other young guy with something to prove.

I remember the feel of the weapon and the fear associated with ever having to use it against another person.

Hurting people is not a normal act in my opinion, and when I was 18 I never thought that I would be forced into returning fire against the enemy on an Afghan mountainside in the contested tribal border region with Pakistan.

I mean, come on, I joined the Air Force, right? We don't do that... do we?

We did, I did.

But the training, the fundamentals of identifying a target, breathing, hand placement, body positioning, and allowing the shot to surprise you, all play into success with competitive shooting.

 I am gearing up now and will have another entry after I get to see just how fun this is going to be.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013


Today has been pretty damn rough.

One of the things about being involved in the Warrior Games is that all of us whom are here have experienced some type of lasting injury to our bodies.

I have a fairly large amount of nerve damage in my lower abdomen and groin area. 4 abdominal surgeries including scar tissue removal, nerve re-sectioning, and a couple of hernia repairs all contribute to chronic pain that I will have to deal with the rest of my life.

If you do not have chronic pain, and have never dealt with constant pain for an extended period of time, you may not understand how it alters your life.

Every aspect of your body can be influenced by chronic pain. Pain changes your attitude and prevents you from just being happy.

It has changed my sleep patterns, created bouts of depression, and made me much more quick to snap at people whom I interact with.

I have used acupuncture, hot stone massages, yoga, chiropractors, meditation, and a myriad of pharmaceuticals, all with little to no success.

Even as I site here working on this entry, I am fighting a large amount of pain.

Sitting volleyball really works on your groin, lower abdomen and hip muscles. It takes great tenacity to play the sport and even those with very mild injuries sometimes struggle to get the hang of it.

I spent a large amount of this afternoons practice helping the team workout while avoiding stressing my hips. My body might be able to handle wheelchair basketball due to the fact that my legs eventually go numb, but the sitting volleyball is uniquely demanding.

 Tomorrow I will get to experience the shooting team and get familiar with the different weapons we will be using during competetion.

I hope that I can get some sleep tonight, but only time will tell.

I'm off to sit in the sauna and attempt to decompress.

Second practice morning.

So I knew that I would be hurting today, but I wasn't able to predict just how much. I only slept for about two hours last night, thanks to PTSD. No nightmares, just the stress of competition combined with fear of the unknown. This type of stress is familiar to many Veterans. Those first few nights before going into a combat zone come to mind right away. You have a decision to make... be a quiet professional, calm and in control of your emotions, or you can freak out. I always chose the first option. Stress changes the way your mind works and over time has negative physical effects as well. Our practices provide us with new stressors for the freshmen, and we follow the lead of our veteran players. This new set of challenges helps me remember how exciting it was when I tried something new in the Air Force. Being in the military, while sometimes difficult, provides a person the opportunity to experience some of the most unique and challenging places on the planet. I can see the drive in all of my fellow teammates to learn and succeed; and thankfully it's contagious.

Monday, January 28, 2013

End of day.

As I sit and reflect on my day, I am immediately drawn to thinking about what brought me here.

I was once an Airman in the United States Air Force.

I wore a uniform. I followed a code of conduct and I did my best to obey the orders of the officers appointed over me.

Today I spent time with a group of people who swore the same thing. They raised their respective right hands and told an officer that they would support and defend the constitution of the United States of America.

I will bleed for those that I care about. Many other people that I meet in life will not.

This bothers me.

It bothers me because I do not know any other way to live my life other than to find a cause and be so dedicated to it that I am willing to die for it. Whatever that cause may be.

It may sound insane to some, but this is how I have spent the last twelve years of my life. Dedication to a cause greater than myself was commonplace.

In the civilian sector, it does not seem so prevalent.

Today I spent the entire day with fellow wounded combat veterans, engaging in team sporting events.

We played basketball, volleyball, and forged new friendships with common goals.

I was a part of a team just ten months ago that was always ready to die for one another in combat should the day require it.

Combat Veterans hold a common bond of having been exposed to serious, life altering events that tend to shape their decision making process for the rest of their existence.

I am a combat veteran who is attempting to make right by all of the poor decisions that I made over the past few years. Many of us attempt to self medicate with a myriad of substance in order to mask the pain and suffering we feel in relation to our combat experiences.

A few of my close friends committed suicide in recent years... all related to their combat experiences.

I myself even considered suicide years ago with the hopes that it would solve all of my problems.

Thankfully, I never seriously followed through, and I developed a great support network of people that care about Steve Otero the person, rather than Steve Otero, the cash cow.

I understand in the normal world, we all have to make a living, but we all also have the choice to determine how many people we either infulence or hurt in order to reach our goals in life.

 I finished my afternoon today with two hours of seated volleyball. Some people may read this and think about people sitting on the ground, not moving around much, and tapping the ball over their heads with the greatest of intentions, fun.

After experiencing the thrill of the competition firsthand, I can now say that most of these people are crazy! The good kind of crazy that picks you up at the bar after a long night of drinking.

Volleyball was a truly mind boggling experience.

My poor little rear end hurts extremely. Its like I took a wad of 1000 grit sandpaper and rubbed it on my bare bottom really... not the most pleasant feeling in the world.

Tomorrow I will do the same thing that I did today once again, but this time, I am equipped with the ammunition which will hopefully carry me into the Warrior Games final events.

It is my goal to give my all in order to see once again what exactly my all is. Those of us whom have served in actual combat, have a generally different perspective on life in general.

And this perspective can either be extremely helpful or detrimental, only time tells all.

I need to get some sleep now, but will be reporting back on tomorrows events as they happen.

This competitive experience is so very unique in ways that I wonder what delectable treats life has in store for me next.

Morning workout complete...

Morning workout complete... my team is hurting already as most of us have never attempted this "Murderball". I can use my legs just fine, but this is going to be a humbling experience for me. Losing total use of my legs was quite awkward at first, but I am getting the hang of this pretty quickly. I am reminded constantly why I loved the Air Force. It defined my youth, tested my body, and gave me a true sense of purpose. Playing a team sport, like basketball, is a great reminder of the importance of teamwork and communication. When we communicate effectively, we move the ball, take the shot, and play the great game of life. I love my new life, and I cherish the memories from my time in uniform.  

Get it started!

Today is day one of our wounded warrior games training camp. Riding in our team van surrounded by fellow combat veterans is a sobering feeling. Words cannot accurately express the excitement I feel right now... being on a team with vets is going to be a really cool thing. More after wheelchair basketball.