Army archer mentors younger wounded warriors
He checks his recurve bow and slips the string taunt on the lower tip, loops the strung end on the outside of his foot, then slides the other end through the top.
With steely nerves and the finesse of a master weaver, you’d never know he was shot multiple times at a point blank range.
Staff Sgt. Ammala Louangketh, C Company, Warrior Transition Battalion-Europe in Schweinfurt, Germany, is one of 50 athletes representing the Army in the third annual 2012 Warrior Games.
Louangketh has served the U.S. Army for 19 years. This will be the second time he’s competed in the games.
More than 200 competitors will be vying for top honors while demonstrating the difference between ability and disability.
"Last year was definitely an eye opener and I feel that my recent training has better prepared me for this year’s competition. My physical training has helped me focus on my upper body and core areas, which are much needed in archery and sitting volleyball," Louangketh said.
Louangketh has been fascinated with archery and its history.
He began shooting compound and recurve bows at age 16. This year, to improve his chances at gold, he plans on mentally preparing himself by relaxing with his family and going fishing, he said.
"My goal is to be able to be competitive and learn more about the sport through other shooters," Louangketh said.
The recurve bow has additional curves at the top and bottom of the bow that turn away from the archer. The curves make it sturdier and more powerful than a regular bow.
Throughout history many civilizations like the Chinese, Mongols, Huns, Greeks and Turks have used the recurve bow as a weapon during war and peace. Today the story is much different and the bow is now the only bow allowed in the Olympics.
Louangketh was shot in the leg Jan. 7, 2009, in Babil Province, Iraq.
Soon afterward he spent several months going through rehabilitation in Landstuhl, Germany. When he was released he joined the Warrior Transition Brigade-Europe.
Although it has been more than three years since the injury, Louangketh still attends physical therapy sessions on a regular basis and will most likely continue doing so after he retires following the games.
"My injury has made me dig harder into my capabilities and help other wounded soldiers by mentoring the younger soldiers," he said.
The Warrior Games confirm the Army’s commitment in celebrating and acknowledging the more than 18,000 wounded, ill and injured soldiers and veterans for their valor and resilience as soldiers and athletes.
(Editor’s note: This story is based on an article by Margaret Gotheridge, U.S. Army Garrison, Schweinfurt, Public Affairs.)