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Great outdoors: Programs keep wounded warriors active

Mark Yoakum, outdoor recreation facilities manager, drives “The Warrior” on Lake Tholocco last year with Tony Vilardo, a wounded warrior. (Photo by Nathan Pfau)

Mark Yoakum, outdoor recreation facilities manager, drives “The Warrior” on Lake Tholocco last year with Tony Vilardo, a wounded warrior. (Photo by Nathan Pfau)

Published: July 17, 2014

FORT RUCKER, Ala. (July 17, 2014) -- Outdoor recreation has a number of ways for people on the installation to take to the outdoors, and Fort Rucker makes sure that wounded warriors aren’t left out when it comes to taking on the wilderness.

There are a number of ways that outdoor recreation provides wounded warriors with opportunities to enjoy outdoor activities from hunting, fishing and taking to the lake, and John Clancy, ODR program manager, said that ODR has taken feedback from Soldiers to find out what they can to do better serve Fort Rucker’s wounded warriors.

“I spoke with Soldiers and wounded warriors and asked them what they needed,” he said. “They said they need the capability and that’s why we got the equipment that we did.”

Some of the equipment that outdoor recreation has for wounded warriors include two hydraulic elevated tree stands, called Carolina Growlers, that are handicap accessible, as well as a track chair, which is essentially a wheelchair with tracks – much like a bulldozer – instead of wheels, said Clancy.

“[The tree stands] are ground level, so that a gentlemen or lady that is wheelchair bound can go up to it independently,” he said. “They can open the door, go inside and turn a key that will give them control to raise [the tree stand] up to any elevation they want to go.”

Clancy said that the tree stands are also portable and have the capability to be hooked up to a trailer to be moved to desired locations.

“The Growler is solar powered and is fully capable of going anywhere on post, and also has full tilt capabilities on the go,” said Lance Oliver, ODR maintenance. “It lifts up about 20 feet when it’s fully extended and can hold up to 750 pounds.”

The track chair, which is much smaller than the tree stands, is much more portable individually and works just like an electric wheelchair, added Clancy. It is battery powered and rechargeable, and can operate for up to four hours on a single charge.

There is also “The Warrior,” which is a boat that was purchased last year that helps meet the recreation needs of wounded warriors and physically disabled people.

“The Warrior has been completely customized to fit the needs of a physically disabled boater to be able to operate the boat or be a passenger on the boat,” said Janice Erdlitz, Directorate of Family, Morale, Welfare and Recreation marketing manager.

Some features on the boat include: a ramp that allows a person in a wheelchair to directly roll onto the boat, specialized controls, remote control anchor, wheelchair locking system and other specialized features.

Reservations must be made in order to use the boat, and reservations can be only one day at a time. At the end of the reservation day, patrons may reserve the boat for the following day if it hasn’t been reserved.

Reservations are given according to priority, and priorities are listed in four categories.

Priority 1 is for Army Wounded Warrior Program Soldiers that have been classified by the medical profession to be a wounded warrior. These Soldiers must show proof of their AW2 status. There is no fee for these Soldiers to use of the boat, but gas must be reimbursed.

Priority 2 is for wounded warriors with severe injuries that limit their mobility. There is no fee for these Soldiers to use the boat, but they must reimburse for gas.

Priority 3 is for active-duty Soldiers with a physically disabled Family member. Those who fall under this priority must pay for use of the boat and reimburse for gas.

Priority 4 is for authorized patrons with a physically disabled Family member or guest. These patrons must pay for use of the boat and reimburse for gas.

The boat has a capacity of up to eight people (1,160 pounds), and can be used for various activities, such as fishing, and also can be utilized for different types of water sports, like tubing, said Clancy.

“It’s also perfect to use to just spend a day on the lake with the Family,” he added.

All patrons wanting to utilize the boat must complete the Fort Rucker Boater Safety Course and can do so by visiting, or by visiting the Fort Rucker Outdoor Recreation service center, said Clancy.

There will also be a separate safety briefing provided to people prior to taking the boat out, added Erdlitz.

All of the equipment available to wounded warriors was purchased using funds raised during the 2011 and 2012 Wounded Warrior Hunt.

“I just hope these recreational enhancements will bring the local communities closer together to support the wounded warriors and their Families,” Clancy added.

For more information, call 244-4305.

This article was originally published at

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