Luke Airmen volunteer to assist disabled veterans at winter sports clinic

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Mareshah Haynes
  • Defense Media Activity-San Antonio
Seven Airmen volunteers from Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., are here primarily to help transport disabled veterans during the 24th National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic March 28 through April 2.  But they also are assisting in other areas as the need arises.

The winter sports clinic promotes rehabilitation through adaptive Alpine and Nordic skiing and other activities and sports such as rock climbing, snowmobiling and sled hockey. Participant injuries range from traumatic brain injuries to quadruple amputees.

The seven Airmen, who were hand selected by their respective squadron leaders for the permissive temporary duty assignment, range from Airman 1st class to technical sergeant in careerfields including medical, maintenance and logistics readiness.

During their first day on the job the Airmen, along with other volunteers, were on the ground at the airport in Aspen, Colo., to help transport the veterans from the plane to wheelchairs plane side.

"We had a one hour training session on using the high back transfer chairs and how to pick (the veterans) up depending on how much assistance they need and lifting techniques so nobody gets injured," said Tech. Sgt. Dennis LesKovec, an F-16 Fighting Falcon crew chief.

In preparation for the clinic to begin, the team from Luke mapped out bus routes for transporting the more than 400 participants to and from various events and helped make ski areas on the mountain wheelchair accessible.

"We laid about 50 or 60 wooden planks to make ramps for wheelchairs to access from the hotel to the mountain," Sergeant LesKovec said.

They also provided a color guard detail for the opening ceremony.

The Airmen are scheduled to continue to provide logistical support for the duration of the event and will be on hand to assist the veterans at the airport when they depart.

Although the Airmen will be putting in a lot of work during the clinic, some feel it is time well spent.

"My favorite part by far has been seeing their smiles," Sergeant LesKovec said. "When they come in and they see servicemembers greeting them, they feel like they're still a part of the mission. It brings them back to place where there was a lot of happiness for them. For a lot of these (veterans), serving was their life, and tragic events happened and now they're living with whatever disability they may have but they see us and they know they're still a part of the team and we haven't forgotten about them."

Airmen from Luke AFB have been supporting the winter sports clinic for eight years.