Photos: Athletes Dive into Competition at Navy Trials for Warrior Games

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NORFOLK, Va.–Wounded warriors from the Navy and Coast Guard are gathering here this week to compete to represent their service at this fall’s Warrior Games. Forty athletes will be selected to represent Team Navy in Colorado Springs against other branches of the military in swimming, basketball and other sports.

The USO is supporting the Navy Trials with on-site logistics help and refreshments for athletes.

-Photos by Sandi Moynihan

Fighters in the Ring, Heroes on the Ground

In March 2011, a group of boxers set out to Kuwait and Iraq on their first USO tour.  Among them were Olympian and boxing legend Oscar De La Hoya and up-and-coming Golden Boy boxers Adrien Broner, Danny Jacobs and Seth Mitchell.  This band of boxers toured 8 bases and visited with thousands of troops as part of their first USO tour experience at installations like Camp Arifjan, Command Operating Base Basra, Camp Victory, Camp Liberty, Joint Security Station (JSS) Loyalty and JSS Justice.

Oscar De La Hoya speaks to U.S. troops serving in Kuwait while on his first USO tour to the Middle East March 10, 2011. De La Hoya was joined by up-and-coming boxers Adrien Broner, Seth Mitchell, and Danny Jacobs (background left to right). (USO Photo/Steve Manuel)

Along for the journey were HBO producer Scott Boggins and cinematographer Thom Stukas, who had worked together previously on the Emmy Award-winning “24/7 Penguins/Capitals: Road to the Winter Classics,” and me.  Yes, that’s right me! And like everyone else, this was my first USO tour.  My role was to serve as liaison between the HBO film crew and the military officials on the ground, and while that may not sound too exciting, it actually turned out to be the experience of a lifetime.

As part of our week in theater, we met service men and women from all over the United States.  The fighters signed autographs and hosted boxing clinics, which gave our troops the chance to pound fists with some of boxing’s greatest athletes.  And as we traveled from base to base we heard over and over how grateful troops were for the touch of home the visit brought.

But at the end of the week-long adventure it was the tour participants who walked away feeling humbled and grateful for the opportunity to spend time with troops serving on the frontlines.  When boxing legend De La Hoya returned to the states, he talked about his experience on a USO tour,

“Hearing their stories and seeing what they go through on a daily basis has changed my life.  The opportunity to see how our troops live and understand their ability to be ready for anything at a moment’s notice showed me what it means to be truly brave.”

I watched as the boxers signed autographs for countless troops, shared meals with them and just listened as they told their stories of life in the military and the families that awaited their return.  It was clear that what our troops missed most was a connection to home and by sharing their stories with us, knowing that in a few more days we’d be headed stateside, it was like they were sending their stories back with us.  It was enough to humble even the biggest of giants.

Olympic gold medalist and former 10-time world champion, Oscar De La Hoya (right), spars with Army CWO-2 Lisa Buckley of the 36th Infantry Division serving in Basra, Iraq, Friday, March 11, 2011. The boxing legend is in the region as part of his first USO tour to the Middle East. De La Hoya is joined by up-and-coming boxers Adrien Broner, Danny Jacobs, and Seth Mitchell. (USO Photo by Steve Manuel)

But it wasn’t just De La Hoya who was left with a profound sense of awe for the service men and women who put their lives on the line on a daily basis.  Heavyweight Seth Mitchell said:

“When I spoke to some of the soldiers, they told me that they work twelve to sixteen hours a day, six or seven days a week.  Hearing about their dedication and the sacrifices they make actually boosted my morale.  It’s a great honor to know that these men and women are serving to protect us.”

These boxers aren’t just showing their appreciation with words.  In fact, Broner – who is the World Boxing Organization’s current superfeather weight champion – has taken it one step further.   He recently trained, as part of the 2012 USA Boxing National Championships, alongside troops at Fort Carson, Colorado Springs, Colo., stepping in the ring with some of the fiercest competitors around.

Broner, who will be featured on this Saturday’s broadcast of HBO’s “Boxing After Dark,” will defend his title against fellow boxer Eloy Perez.  HBO will feature footage from last year’s USO tour to the Middle East as part of the broadcast. Tune in to HBO this Saturday, February 25th at 10 PM (EST) to learn more about Broner’s USO tour experience or watch the video on HBO.com. It’s a match I won’t want to miss! – Sharee Posey, USO Communications Specialist

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Way To Go, TEAM USO!

A TEAM USO member at the starting line. (USO photo by Neshan Naltchayan)

We would like to applaud all members of TEAM USO who participated in the Marine Corps Marathon and 10k yesterday.  It truly was an amazing day and your support of our troops and their families is to be commended.  Altogether the team raised over $34,000, with 36 runners participating.

We’d also like to send a big thank you to all who came out to support the runners.  We know they wouldn’t have made it through 6.2 or 26.2 miles without family and friends cheering them on.  And we’re already looking forward to doing it all over again next year!

Check out more photos from the day on TEAM USO’s Facebook page. If you are interested in joining TEAM USO and running the Marine Corps Marathon in 2011 please email athleteinfo@uso.org.  TEAM USO registration for the marathon and 10K will open in early 2011 and we are always looking for new teammates.  Hope to see you out there!

The first group of TEAM USO runners pose for a group photo before heading to the start line. (USO photo by Neshan Naltchayan)

The second group of TEAM USO runners pose for a group photo before heading to the start line. (USO photo by Neshan Naltchayan)

Team Captain Tracey Holtshirley looks strong as he heads out with 26.2 miles ahead. (USO photo by Neshan Naltchayan)

TEAM USO member Nikki Etxegoien proudly wears her marathon medal, surrounded by the supporters who cheered her along the route! (USO photo by Neshan Naltchayan)

Introducing the Military Bowl!

It’s official: Washington, D.C.’s college football bowl game – formerly known as the Eagle Bank Game – has been renamed “The Military Bowl presented by Northrop Grumman,” and the charitable beneficiary is the USO!

The Bowl is in its third year and will be played Dec. 29, 2010 at RFK Stadium in Washington D.C. This season, the game is scheduled to feature an Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) team vs. a Conference USA opponent. The D.C. Bowl Committee and the Washington Convention and Sports Authority (WCSA) made the announcement yesterday at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center during the Association of the U.S. Army (AUSA) annual meeting.

“Since its inception, the mission of our Bowl Committee team is to support the efforts of our servicemen and servicewomen defending our country both at home and abroad, and to enhance our wonderful Washington, D.C. communities,” said bowl chairman Jeffrey S. Fried.

“The new Military Bowl presented by Northrop Grumman benefitting the USO, will support the excellent work of that organization, which does so much for our brave men and women in uniform, and their families,” said Wes Bush, CEO and president, Northrop Grumman Corporation.

Check out the video below from Military.com, featuring interviews with DC Mayor Adrian Fenty, Sports Anchor James Brown, and more.  The game will be broadcast live on ESPN at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are on sale at all Ticketmaster locations, Ticketmaster.com or by calling 202-785-BOWL.  We’ll see YOU at the game!

No Dodging a Good Time with USO Basrah

Who's up for a game of dodgeball? (Photo by USO Basrah)

Basrah, Iraq –  Tonight was filled with fast feet, flying balls, and high stakes competition as USO Basrah teamed up with the 2515th Naval Air Ambulance Detachment to bring an exciting spin to typical base intramural sports.

Depending on your elementary school experience, ‘dodge ball’ either brings up fond memories or brings you back to getting pegged in the head in 6th grade.  Either way, putting those same foam balls in the hands of soldiers puts a new ‘spin’ on things, and this week’s event proved dodge ball is far from child’s play.

Over the course of the night, 16 teams raced their way to the middle line, snatched what they could, and gave their best throw, and when the dust settled….everyone enjoyed some barbeque. With such a large turn out, this tournament is the start of something good, a first installment of a base-wide favorite.

Below are some highlights of the night. For more pictures be sure to search for us on Facebook at “USO Basrah.”

One team player surveys his options before letting 'em fly... (Photo by USO Basrah)

"If you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball." (Photo by USO Basrah)

It's only a game...or is it? (Photo by USO Basrah)

Pentagon Announces Second Warrior Games

Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, announces the second annual Warrior Games to be held in Colorado Springs, Colo., in May 2011. Mullen addressed the media at the Pentagon on Sept. 20, 2010. (DoD photo by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley)

The Pentagon announced yesterday that the second annual Warrior Games are scheduled to be held May 16 through May 21, 2011, at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Again hosted by the U.S. Olympic Committee, the games will include shooting, swimming, archery, track and field, cycling, sitting volleyball, and wheelchair basketball.

“When the focus is on ability rather than disability, we see that physical fitness and sports can have a healing affect on the mind, body and soul,” Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, said Monday at the Pentagon.  You can read Adm. Mullen full statement on the games at DoD Live.

From a pool of more than 9,000 active-duty soldiers recovering in Warrior Transition Units, the Army will choose 100 competitors to represent it in the games. The Marine Corps will send 50 competitors and the Air Force will send 25. The Coast Guard and Navy will combine to send 25 rounding out the 200-competitor roster.

Click through to read the full American Forces Press Service story. And read about last year’s games from On Patrol Magazine and the On the Frontlines blog.