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3rd ID soldiers compete in Warrior Games

Paralympics in Colorado this week

POSTED: May 11, 2010 11:57 a.m.
Photo by Denise Etheridge/

Clockwise from back left are Warrior Transition Unit Cadre member Sgt. 1st Class Roderick White and WTU athletes Spc. Christopher Lowe, Staff Sgt. Phillip Fentiman and Cpl. Ryan Shurtleff. The three soldiers will represent Fort Stewart at the inaugural Warrior Games competition May 10-14 in Colorado Springs.

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“I like winning,” said Cpl. Ryan Shurtleff, one of three soldier-athletes who will represent Fort Stewart at the inaugural Warrior Games competition May 10-14 in Colorado Springs, Colo.  
Shurtleff, 25, a Purple Heart recipient, was wounded when a roadside bomb exploded on Sept. 25, 2008, in Iraq. The young warrior sustained a traumatic brain injury and other internal injuries, including damage to his liver and spleen. A former football player and track team member in high school, and someone who “likes to make people laugh,” Shurtleff will compete in shooting and the 100-meter dash.
The games will provide 200 disabled active duty members and veterans from across the military a chance to compete in the Paralympic event at the U.S. Olympic Training Center next week.
Shurtleff, assigned to the Warrior Transition Battalion, will fly out of Savannah’s airport Monday with fellow WTB members Spc. Christopher Lowe, 24, and Staff Sgt. Phillip Fentiman, 45.
Lowe was wounded in the same rooftop sniper attack that killed Marine Capt. Matthew Freeman of Richmond Hill last August in Afghanistan.
“I was eight months away from (transitioning out) before I was shot,” Lowe said.
His right leg sustained nerve and vascular damage and he must wear a brace to walk. Lowe was transferred to Fort Stewart’s Warrior Transition Unit last month from Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.
The Georgia National Guardsman said he was bored with his rehabilitative workout routine at Walter Reed, and was tired of being beaten by “little kids” at video games. So, he signed up for the military’s first Paralympics to test his mental, as well as physical, capabilities. A lacrosse player in college, Lowe will compete in hand-cycling and shooting.
Fentiman, the “senior” of the group, is ready to go for Paralympic gold. He will compete in the 50- and 100-meter freestyle events.
 “I’ve wanted to get back in the competitive mode with swimming,” Fentiman said. The former Army medic, with nearly 20 years of service, returned to the pool after recovering from open-heart surgery and other chronic health issues, including arthritis in his hips and lower back.
Fentiman competed in swimming and diving in high school and was on a master swim team at Fort Hood in 1996. The WTB member also was a lifeguard and swim instructor and said he would like to coach others in swimming. Because he can no longer run, swimming has become more than his daily PT; it is a therapeutic outlet. 
“When I’m around the pool, I’m relaxed,” Fentiman said. “I love it.”
All three soldiers put in hours of serious training.
Fentiman swims laps two hours each morning, five days a week, under the supervision of Cadre member Staff Sgt. Randon McMasters, who times him.
Lowe wakes at 4:30 a.m. every weekday morning to catch a bus to the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Brunswick so he can spend more than six hours on the shooting range daily. Shurtleff trained on the shooting range at Fort Benning for a week.
WTB Commander Lt. Col. Bill Reitemeyer said adaptive sports, as celebrated at the Warrior Games, can help disabled soldiers overcome their disabilities. Reitemeyer said he would like to broaden the adaptive sports program at Fort Stewart.
The WTB commander said the U.S. Olympic Committee, the USO and the American Red Cross helped the military’s various warrior transition commands organize the Warrior Games.
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