HomeNewsArticle Display

Instructor pilot shares experience in AFW2 program before competing in Warrior Games

Capt. Hunter Barnhill, 37th Flying Training Squadron instructor pilot, trains on his road bike May 15, 2018, on Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi. Barnhill will bike anywhere from a few miles to over 15 miles in one training session. As a member of the Air Force Wounded Warrior program he is preparing for the 2018 Warrior Games June 1-9 at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Keith Holcomb)

Capt. Hunter Barnhill, 37th Flying Training Squadron instructor pilot, trains on his road bike May 15, 2018, on Columbus Air Force Base, Miss. Barnhill will bike anywhere from a few miles to over 15 miles in one training session. As a member of the Air Force Wounded Warrior Program he is preparing for the 2018 Warrior Games June 1 through 9 at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Keith Holcomb)

Capt. Hunter Barnhill, 37th Flying Training Squadron instructor pilot, completes a rep on his rowing machine May 15, 2018, on Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi. Barnhill was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2017, and has since become one of the many resilient Airmen and participants in the Air Force Wounded Warrior community. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Keith Holcomb)

Capt. Hunter Barnhill, 37th Flying Training Squadron instructor pilot, completes a rep on his rowing machine May 15, 2018, on Columbus Air Force Base, Miss. Barnhill was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2017, and has since become one of the many resilient Airmen and participants in the Air Force Wounded Warrior community. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Keith Holcomb)

COLUMBUS AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. (AFNS) -- The end of an Easter egg hunt in 2017 brought Capt. Hunter Barnhill, 37th Flying Training Squadron instructor pilot, down to the ground as his body was trapped in a seizure.

The seizure was a result of the brain cancer that doctors would soon discover. Within days and through the following months his family, friends and co-workers were helping Barnhill through one of the most difficult times in his life, but there was another helping hand already looking to grab hold of the pilot.

“There was an email chain between my commander at the time and somebody at the Air Force Wounded Warrior program (AFW2),” Barnhill said. “They had said something along the lines of ‘Capt. Barnhill just went under some serious brain surgery and we’d recommend him as a member of the AFW2 program.’”

He recalled going through physical therapy the summer after his surgery and he would watch the Invictus Games, an international adaptive multi-sport event, on his computer as he stretched and did his workouts.

“I was impressed,” he said. “If they could go through the traumas they went through and find their healing through different sports, I mean that got them this far then why couldn’t I do it? That’s kind of where my interest in the Warrior Games began.”

He competed in a handful of adaptive sports during an AFW2 camp at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, which only motivated him further to try out for the Warrior Games team.

“When you get down to it, the real motivation is competing alongside other resilient Airmen,” Barnhill said. “I wanted to compete alongside them. These people at the Warrior Games know, in a way, what I’ve gone through. That’s a bond we all share.”

After the tryouts, Barnhill qualified for shooting, cycling and indoor rowing events and will be competing in all three events at the 2018 Warrior Games from June 1 to 9 at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

“I grew up deer hunting and shooting, so I was immediately drawn to the air pistol and air rifle shooting,” he said. “I was never much of a cycler before I started training, honestly. I have never done any competitive cycling, but I used to bike everywhere as a kid and in college. I used rowing predominantly as a warm up before workouts, but the indoor rowing in particular is one of those sports I have fallen in love with because of its introduction to me through the AFW2 program.”

The teams for each of the sports have Facebook groups where they can communicate with teammates, have live videos of workouts for instant feedback from their coaches, and review new workout routines or receive tips to help improve.

A lot of coaches, like Col. Todd Benson, one of AFW2’s shooting coaches, are active-duty members in the Air Force and have a large background in the sport they are involved with.

“Our warriors have taught me that two of the most important tools to recovery are humor and patience,” Benson said. “Lending an ear or igniting a smile can mean more to our warriors than you will ever know.”

Benson said from his experience coaching the marksmen over the years, helping the athletes overcome their different obstacles is a very rewarding experience.

“If you want to be inspired and humbled, meet a wounded warrior and ask them to tell you their story,” Benson said. “You will discover a renewed sense of patriotism and become energized to contribute to this great nation. It is an honor to coach an amazing Airman such as Capt. Barnhill. His drive, positive attitude, and amazing family has been an inspiration. I have no doubt he will inspire anyone who has the privilege to shake his hand.”

The shared experiences and sacrifices of the athletes builds strong bonds between everyone involved, Barnhill explained. Everyone knows in a way what the person next to them has gone through and the team concept is what allows the program to work as a recovery tool.

“All through training, my wife, Crystal, has been really patient with me,” Barnhill said. “There’s been a lot of time I’ve had to spend training. Her and my son have put up with me and my schedule because they know how much it means to me and it’s been really great. I really appreciate them for that.”

Barnhill said this supportive family dynamic is evident with other members of the team as well, and their families are willing to support the team by any means possible.

“All of the families are very integrated into the teams,” Barnhill said. “Athletes and caregivers, athletes and immediate family members, everyone’s on the team together and it’s a one-team fight.”

When the games or AFW2 camps are over, the families work with the athletes continuously to help them recover and progress personally and professionally. They are the heroes behind the scenes, Barnhill said.

“Everybody at the Warrior Games has one goal,” he said. “The goal is healing. There are second and third order effects that come from that healing such as comradery and friendship. It’s those kinds of things keep me coming back.”

Engage

Facebook Twitter
DYK: Aircraft have lifespans! Like humans, they require check-ups in the form of maintenance inspections to prolong their ability to fly. These "checks" prevent in-flight system failures which ultimately protects aircrew and passengers. Learn more from the 86th Maintenance Squadron at Ramstein Air Base, Germany on what it takes to correct issues so aircraft can stay airborne.
WATCH: United States Air Force pilots talk about the importance of Exercise Saber Strike 18 as they refuel over the Baltic Sea on June 18, 2018. Saber Strike 18 is a long-standing training exercise designed to enhance interoperability between the U.S. and our allies. The training focused on improving land and air operational capabilities between the U.S. and our NATO allies. (U.S. Air National Guard video by: Master Sgt. Wolfram M. Stumpf)
Check out some shots from yesterday's All-Star Armed Services Classic Championship softball game in Washington, D.C. This event, part of MLB’s All-Star Week, pays tribute to the men and women of the Armed Forces. Washington Nationals U.S. Army
Air Force and U.S. Army coed softball teams render military honors during the playing of the National Anthem during the All-Star Armed Services Classic Championship softball game, Washington, D.C., July 13, 2018. This event, part of MLB’s All-Star Week, pays tribute to the men and women of the Armed Forces. Washington Nationals
Great way to lead by example!
The United States Air Force is facing a pilot shortage. To help solve the challenge, the Aircrew Crisis Task Force was recently created to provide strategic direction and actionable recommendations to senior leaders on how to solve the aircrew manning crisis. FULL STORY: https://go.usa.gov/xUb3z
Your United States Air Force news: ✓ A B-52 crew assists in a search and rescue operation off the coast of Guam ✓ An Afghan pilot class graduates in the Czech Republic ✓ The Air Force is using innovative approaches to training pilots to make the process faster and more efficient
Now that’s how weathermen work! Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunters fly weather reconnaissance missions into Tropical Storm Chris and Tropical Storm Beryl. http://www.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/1569944/hurricane-hunters-fly-tropical-storms-beryl-chris/
The F-22 Raptor's combination of stealth, supercruise, maneuverability, and integrated avionics, coupled with improved supportability, represents an exponential leap in warfighting capabilities. The F-22 cannot be matched by any known or projected fighter aircraft. Maintaining these aircraft can involve a bit of a learning curve. Airmen at KadenaAirBase use past technology to help learn how to work with the undefeated Raptor. FULL STORY: http://www.kadena.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/1567295/hard-to-raptor-head-around/
Help us out! Can you caption this photo?
The B-52 Stratofortress has sniper pods that provide improved long-range target detection/identification and continuous stabilize surveillance for all missions, including close air support of ground forces. Air Force Global Strike Command crew members on a B-52 were able to spot a historic Pacific Island style canoe so that the U.S. Coast Guard could rescue the six passengers!
For the past 60 years, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, has continually helped us maintain a technological edge against our advarsaries. Together with the Air Force Research Laboratory - AFRL, a fusion of ideas is leading to newly highlighted innovations.
SOUND ON! Celebrate freedom with the sound of freedom! Happy Independence Day!
For the first time in the 63-year history of Operation Deep Freeze, #Airmen from the 304th Expeditionary Airlift Sq… https://t.co/CdeyI4HjHT
#DYK, the #MedalofHonor is the highest award for bravery that can be awarded to members of the United States Armed… https://t.co/qei2LbbD1I
.@388fw’s 4th Fighter Squadron became the first operational unit to fire the F-35A’s the #aircraft’s 25mm cannon on… https://t.co/J7hbXrCSCv
#DYK: The @22ARW is the host unit of McConnell AFB! Its mission is to conduct air refueling & airlift operations su… https://t.co/12bR9cwIuG
RT @71FTW: An aircraft crash has occurred approximately 50 miles west of Vance AFB. Pilot is conscious and with emergency responders. Follo…
.@HQUSAFEPA #Airmen & seven African partner nations strengthened relationships through the African Partnership Flig… https://t.co/FsvAK4n3i3
.@20FighterWing #Airmen learned how to be resilient by taking a leap of faith. https://t.co/WCgebfzEmj https://t.co/5JHPF7P1Px
RT @USAFHealth: A new transition cell was recently stood-up to coordinate and support ongoing transition efforts related to the NDAA and tr…
.@Travis60AMW #Airmen helped the Advanced Extremely High Frequency-4 program complete a major milestone by ensuring… https://t.co/yut12HK3M5
The School of Air Evacuation honored the history, present and future of aeromedical evacuation during their 75th an… https://t.co/5uYoyUwy9z
.@PANationalGuard #Airmen have new and improved parachutes. Read more about the lifesaving equipment:… https://t.co/QC1BGX8Fbl
At the @20FighterWing, munitions #Airmen train and work as a team to load 'em up & move 'em out.… https://t.co/9leaqRS8vI
Imagine trying to use a stethoscope on a plane. The noise makes the tool essentially useless. A new #technology aim… https://t.co/AYMf42Q0Wf
Read about this #Airman's experiences as he serves with the @Aus_AirForce through the Military Personnel Exchange P… https://t.co/6Td7p8u3ZO
RT @HQUSAFEPA: We. Are. NATO. U.S. Air Force F-22s and Royal Norwegian Air Force F-35s conducted training ops over Norwegian airspace toget…
Tune into this edition of Around the #AirForce https://t.co/SFdrh7AIIY
#DYK: Our #militaryworkingdogs are seen at veterinary treatment facilities, ensuring the #K9s are healthy and able… https://t.co/MZE22dcoZ1
The #USAF partnered with @DeptVetAffairs to implement the first Women’s Health Transition Pilot Program! Check out… https://t.co/mdlKYrV5Wg
The apple doesn't fall far from the tree! This Washington #AirNationalGuard #Airman followed her mother's footsteps… https://t.co/PCto8QNH9L