When picturing a member of the armed forces, a fit person often comes to mind, and with good reason. Fitness is an essential part of being in the military. An unfit person is unable to carry the necessary gear in dangerous situations. Lacking physical fitness is a liability, both for the service member and their battle buddy. Therefore, active-duty members go through fitness tests on a regular basis.
The relationship between sports and the armed forces goes beyond the ability to carry a heavy backpack. After all, they both require discipline, commitment, and the ability to constantly push one’s limits. This is why the armed forces encourage active-duty members who wish reach the highest level of competition. Service members have programs, special authorizations, and may even delay active duty service. A Military world-class athlete has the chance to honor and represent our country in sports events all around the globe. Here are five ways they can do so.
The Olympic Games
Members of the military have taken part in the Olympic Games for years. In fact, for a long time, officers completely dominated shooting and horse riding events. Nowadays, active-duty members can compete in the Olympic trials. Officers and enlisted may join the U.S. team in both the Summer and the Winter Olympic Games. They can participate in events such as boxing, wrestling, gymnastics, swimming, climbing, shooting, modern pentathlon, table tennis, triathlon, judo, fencing, kayaking, softball and more. Thanks to the emphasis on physical fitness and the pride of representing Ol’ Glory, service members have succeeded in the past.
The Paralympic Games
If an amputee soldier wishes to remain on active duty, he or she must demonstrate a higher level of function with a prosthesis and have the recommendation of two medical officers. The soldiers are evaluated for prosthetic ambulation that exceeds basic ambulation skills, exhibiting high impact, typical of the prosthetic demands of the active adult or athlete, which is consistent with a K4 Medicare Functional Classification Level.Gailey RS, Roach KE, Applegate EB, et al. The amputee mobility predictor: an instrument to assess determinants of the lower-limb amputee’s ability to ambulate. Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2002;83:613– 627
Although military personnel with a disability are eligible to qualify for the Paralympic Games, they are usually are no longer active duty military. Only very rarely can a service member remain on active duty while wounded. A number of veterans wounded in action make it to the Paralympic Games. Discipline, mental strength, and determination are necessary to perform in sports and to overcome those life-altering injuries. That is why former military personnel are an important part of the teams who participate in the Paralympic Games. They have a good fitness base, and the right mental framework to overcome any obstacle in front of them and to transcend whatever impairment they face, translating into amazing skills.
The Marathon is the longest foot race in the Olympics. They are harrowing but rewarding challenges. In recent years, their popularity has increased, along with the rise of the fitness trend that started in the 80s. To run a marathon requires stamina, determination, and the will to keep going until reaching the finish line, even when every muscle burns and the lungs cry for help. This makes military personnel very suited for the task. Numerous active-duty members have taken part in popular editions around the world, such as the New York, Boston, London, or Paris marathons. Some hard-chargers love nothing more than a challenge; a few of them have run the race in full gear to establish dominance.
Major Leagues (NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL…)
A number of graduates from military academies, such as West Point, the Naval Academy, and the Air Force Academy, have been offered a shot at the pros upon graduation. However, a minimum of two-years of active duty service is required post-graduation. Naturally, most athletes lose that opportunity. In 2017, that rule was challenged. Graduates from the military academies are now allowed to go straight to the major leagues, replacing the two years of active duty by eight to ten years in the reserves. This change will probably allow the academies, who have been producing many brilliant military and business careers, to also produce world-class athletes while upholding the values of the US military.
National and International Championships
The excellent athletes on active duty are present at the national and international competition levels. Thanks to special authorizations, they are allowed to train to reach their peak and travel around the country and the globe to represent the Star-Spangled Banner. Whether national championship, Pan-American championship, qualifying rounds, invitationals, or world championship, they are present across many competitions to represent both their country and the military they serve. Thanks to the values of discipline and hard work promoted by Uncle Sam, these athletes often achieve very good results.
Feature image: U.S. Army photo