MacDill, Tampa Bay fire-up DOD Warrior Games

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Ryan C. Grossklag
  • 6th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

Over 300 athletes from the U.S. as well as Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom’s armed forces, have flocked to MacDill Air Force Base, to train for the Department of Defense Warrior Games.

The DOD Warrior Games, sponsored by United States Special Operations Command, were established in 2010 to enhance the recovery and rehabilitation of wounded, ill and injured service members and introduce them to adaptive sports. Competitors include active-duty service members and veterans with upper-body, lower-body, and spinal cord injuries; traumatic brain injuries; visual impairment; serious illnesses; and post-traumatic stress.


“Anyone who comes out to witness the games will see that these athletes are not defined by their injuries,” said U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Lauren Montoya, an athlete representing the SOCOM team.


Montoya was a member of the Army Cultural Support Team assigned to a Special Forces unit in Afghanistan beginning November 2013. While on task, the truck Montoya operated as a gunner rolled over a roadside bomb and she became pinned by the equipment on board. Montoya sustained a crushed heel bone, as well as muscle and nerve damage to her foot and lower leg, requiring nine surgeries over the course of a year in attempt to salvage her limb. After fighting the option for so long, Montoya had no choice but to opt for amputation.


Montoya shows gratitude to represent those who’ve been less fortunate than herself, and sees the Warrior Games as a way to channel her emotions.


“It’s a very personal thing to get out and put 110 percent into whatever I’m doing,” said Montoya. “I try to make sure I’m honoring others sacrifices through my actions.”


Warrior Games provides the athletes an avenue to compete and bond with other service members from around the world. First time competitor U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Russell Ruth has spent this week being inspired by all the success stories from fellow competitors and looks forward to the high rate of competition. 


“We’re out here to compete and win, but also to support each other no matter the branch,” said Ruth. “We have an opportunity to heal and be with like-minded people who’ve been through similar situations.”


Ruth, who joined the SOCOM team as a late active duty addition, finds himself in the games after being shot in the chest in March of this year during an attempted robbery of a restaurant, suffering a collapsed lung.


“You meet some of the most interesting people here and staying in touch opens the doors to be able to give back to others,” said Ruth. “Observers will see that we are wounded veterans, but we’re capable of anything.”


Montoya and Ruth’s stories are just a small fraction of those that can be told and displayed by the over 300 competitors representing their nations in this years Warrior Games.


Events begin on June 21, with the official opening ceremony taking place at Amalie Arena in downtown Tampa on June 22, and run through the closing ceremonies on June 30. Competitions are free to the public and all are encouraged to attend and cheer on the athlete. The schedule of events can be found at