Maxwell Airman Coaches Wounded Warriors
By Airman 1st Class Alexa Culbert, 42 Air Base Wing Public Affairs
/ Published October 17, 2014
MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -- A 42nd Aerospace Medical Dental Squadron bioenvironmental engineer technician has always had an interest in shooting and it wasn't long before he put his skills to the test.
Senior Airman Alexander Callage started shooting at 14-years old and for the last three years he has been a pistol coach for the Warrior Games.
"The range I shot at had a group of Air Force Pistol Team shooters stationed nearby," he said. "They persuaded me to join the Air Force and the rest is history. I have been on the Air Force Shooting Team since the day I graduated basic training in 2009."
The next two years it was his job to shoot, train, and compete with the United States shooting team.
In 2012, He found a new way to utilize his talent for other than just earning medals.
He became a pistol coach for the Warrior Games, teaching ill and injured service members the skills they need to compete against the other branches of service in the U.S Paralympics at Colorado Springs, Colorado.
"I'm not too concerned about the medals, because that's not the reason for the Warrior Games and why we do everything that we do. The reason we're there is to help people with their recovery and the adaptive sports are just a vessel for that," said Callage. "What's great for me is the joy they receive from earning a medal and the spirit it gives the team."
Another reward that coaching Wounded Warriors presents is witnessing people overcome personal obstacles.
"I've learned a lot from people's injuries and stories of recovery," said Callage. "They overcome huge obstacles, hard times and sometimes life threatening injuries and are able to overcome and come back from that. It's really special to be a part of that and a privilege to work with them and experience the Warrior Games."
Steven Otero, Air Force Wounded Warriors program communications coordinator and former Warrior Games athlete, said, "I couldn't personally ask for a better coach than Callage."
Callage coached Otero in the 2013 Warrior Games.
"I was angry and standoffish when I met him and he knew when to give space, but was always there ready with advice," said Otero, in a telephone interview.
While the Warriors Games can't give back everything the athletes lost, hopefully they can gain something from the experience.
"It gives them that sense of camaraderie, like being in the Air Force again, especially to the ones who retired or separated," said Callage. "And realizing through sports that just because they have post-traumatic stress disorder, a missing limb, or whatever the case may be, that they can still do what they did before, they just have to do it in different ways now."
Shooting helped Otero recover from his PTSD and the shakiness he experienced due to permanent abdominal nerve damage.
"The focus required for shooting has helped them to calm down and concentrate," said Callage.
"Shooting helped me regain focus, it was a form of medicine," said Otero. "Callage helped me understand how to focus and use my motor skills to be successful"
The Warrior Games offers awards much more precious than medals. To some that may be friendship, confidence, insight, or just peace of mind.
"I just enjoy working with the people and believe in the cause of taking care of our wounded and ill Airmen," said Callage. "I've seen nothing but positive results of going through our Warrior Games, I've seen it really help people whether it's with their recovery, them coming out of their shell or learning they're not the only ones going through certain things. I enjoy seeing the benefits they gain from it."
The Air Force Warrior Games team earned a total of 48 medals in the 2014 Warrior Games.