LAS VEGAS, Nev. --
The advanced team for the Air Force Wounded Warrior Program (AFW2) arrived in Las Vegas, in preparation for the 6th annual Air Force Trials, March 1st through the 7th. The Paralympic-style competitive event showcases the resiliency of wounded warriors and highlights the effectiveness of adaptive sports as part of their recovery. It also highlights the impact AFW2 has in helping with the restorative care of wounded warriors enrolled in the program. The Air Force Trials is the primary selection location for the 40 primary and 10 alternate members of Team Air Force selected to compete at the 2019 Department of Defense Warrior Games in Tampa, Florida, June 21st through 30th.
Captain Hunter Barnhill is one of those wounded warriors hoping to make the team. This is the second year in a row that he’s traveled to Las Vegas to compete in the Air Force Trials. Last year, Barnhill went on to compete with Team Air Force at the 2018 Warrior Games at the U.S. Air Force Academy, Colorado.
We caught up with Barnhill to see how he’s been doing since we saw him last. He gave us some insight in how he’s been doing since we saw him last. He just made a permanent change of station move to Ohio State University where he will serve with the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corp (ROTC), Detachment 645, as an assistant professor of Aerospace Studies.
How have things been going since you last competed with us?
My last competition with AFW2 was the 2018 Warrior Games. Since then I’ve been great. Sure, I’ve had plenty of struggles and lows here and there, but overall I’ve been doing very well.
What have you been doing to keep yourself busy?
My family keeps me pretty busy...especially my 3-year-old son!
How is your training coming along, and what are you doing to prepare for the competition ahead?
Training has been good, but its difficult to maintain consistency. But through AFW2 I’ve met some incredible friends who hold me accountable to train hardest and more frequently.
How does it feel to be heading to the AF Trials again?
While it feels great, there’s also a lot of pressure with the new blood coming into the program. But, that’s a great thing! It keeps me motivated and pushes me harder to keep up with with those athletes coming into the program. I love seeing new airmen come into this program and see firsthand the healing that takes place here through sport and camaraderie!
What was it like to represent the AF at the Warrior Games?
It was the honor of a lifetime! An honor and memory that I will cherish for my entire life.
What would you tell the new folks this year to get them mentally prepared for the big competition at Warrior Games?
To the new folks: Be ready to compete and get after it!
How do you think being a competitive athlete has helped you?
Being a competitive athlete has enabled me to crush some self-imposed mental barriers that I created myself. For example, prior to the 2018 Trials, I wouldn’t wear a bike helmet because I thought it would interfere with the metal plate in my skull. But when Coach Rick [AFW2 cycling coach] handed me the helmet and told me to put it on, I had no choice. Bam! Barrier eliminated!
How did your relationship with AFW2 help you through all you’ve gone through?
My relationship with AFW2 is STILL helping me in a number of ways. For one, the program has introduced me to some amazing people who have demonstrated exceptional resilience. It gave me purpose and a way to contribute when my injury/illness prevented me from performing my primary duty in the Air Force. Through the program I have been able to transform my one disability into MANY new abilities!
Follow the action our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages. We'll be posting images and video throughout the competition and will talk to Hunter to see how he's faring along the way.