CFI Mini-Try prepares injured, wounded Soldiers for other life goals
Story by Jen D. Rodriguez, BAMC, Public Affairs
Published June 5, 2012
Photo by Jen D. Rodriguez
McCallincorner: Michael McCallum rounds the ice rink curves during warm up at the Hockey Clinic, May 16.
CANADA: Canadian Coalition Soldiers run through drills at the hockey clinic May 16.
These days, nothing about Pam McCallum’s son, Michael, makes her nervous.
Not even his most recent goal to play for the San Antonio Rampage Sled Hockey team.
"I'm very proud of all that he's doing," said Pam. "He has always gone for the extreme stuff – skateboarding, working out …" She said he's even skateboarded without his prosthetics.
She said he's even skateboarded without his prosthetics.
Recently, the staff sergeant, who was injured Dec. 7, conquered his first Center for the Intrepid Mini-Try May 18, with a 500-meter swim, 10-mile bike ride, and a two-mile run, walk or roll, adding another accomplishment under his belt.
"I had to look at the ground to use the last bit of energy to make it to the finish line," he said.
The Mini-Try is a non-competitive event that exposes injured and wounded service members to different sports as a way to get them involved and stay motivated throughout their rehabilitation process.
Today, however, Michael, a double amputee, has his sights on something bigger than the Mini-Try; training hard to make the sled hockey team, where many of his injured and wounded comrades play.
Run by Operation Comfort, a non-profit organization, the San Antonio Rampage Sled Hockey Team was the first team to form consisting of all wounded military service members coming from Iraq and Afghanistan, who are recovering at San Antonio Military Medical Center.
The Rampage Sled Hockey Team has since been crowned Midwest Sled Hockey Champs, with three of its members playing on the Team USA to win the gold in the 2012 Sledge Hockey World Cup Championship in Norway.
Like Michael, Sgt. Matthew White from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center returned to the CFI-Mini Try this year to compete in all three events. He was one of eight guys participating in this year’s competition, six of whom competed in all three.
"The reason I returned to participate is because I'm a big runner," said White. "It's neat participating in the Mini-Try."
Two days before the Mini-Try, Michael, along with a group of Coalition Soldiers from Canada and the Republic of Georgia and BAMC and WRNMMC Soldiers, took to the ice for a hockey clinic at the Ice and Golf Center at Northwoods in San Antonio.
This makes the fourth or fifth time that Michael has been on the ice, though his efforts look seamless as he whisks by players, even though the other Rampage players zoom by twice as fast.
But, he relishes, "I'm getting faster. The first time I was out, I had no speed. I kept tipping, left and right."
Besides the San Antonio rink, the only other time he’s been on ice was ice skating in Qatar, Persia Gulf, where he said, "I fell a lot."
"I really like it (hockey) as I get better at it," he said. "I want to slam people up against the wall, and score goals."
While the Soldiers played on the ice May 16, Michael trained under CFI Physical Therapist and Rampage Coach Fred Jesse's guidance to learn how to ride a red line in a circle, while leaning into the turns.
Clinic participants also drilled on stopping on the line, puck control and passing between two players, and shooting a goal coached by the San Antonio Rampage Sled Hockey players.
"Hockey, it's a religion," said Canadian Soldier Cpl. Brock Blaszczyk of the 1st Battalion, Princess Patricia Canadian Light Infantry. "I play all the time."
After warm-up drills, the Soldiers played four games with a few of the sled hockey players using what they learned in the clinic "for real" on the ice.
"I really like it here at the Intrepid," said Canadian Army Infantryman Sgt. Jamie MacIntyre. "We get the chance to pass experience back and forth."
Blaszczyk said the Mini-Try also draws many Canadian Soldiers together in Texas to meet for the first time.
According to Blaszczyk, the Mini-Try is more than an event. "It brings the guys together to vent together, and then learn about how they dealt with this injury or that one."
As for Michael, he's learning to adjust to his injuries by accomplishing new goals, while training to make the sled hockey team. The season starts in October.
Meanwhile, he's already planning to hand cycle in the 18-mile Tour de Cure ride.