Wounded Warrior Program gives Minot Airman new purpose

Written by: Senior Airman Evan Lichtenhan, 5th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Josiah Powell, 5th Security Forces Squadron defender, poses for a photo with his Air Force Trials medals at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota April 28, 2023. Powell won five gold medals in swimming and a silver and a bronze medal in track at the 2023 Air Force Trials, and was selected to represent Team Air Force at the Department of Defense’s 2023 Warrior Games. U.S. Air Force photo I Senior Airman Evan Lichtenhan

Senior Airman Josiah Powell, 5th Security Forces Squadron defender, was a great defender, living a great life. He was enjoying certain aspects of his job. He was healthy and he was happy.

Then one day, he sustained an injury and soon after found himself facing a medical evaluation board. These boards are held to determine if an Airman is fit to perform the tasks required of them by the Air Force. Unfortunately, Powell was found no longer fit for duty. This meant that he was no longer able to perform the day-to-day tasks of a Security Forces Airman and would be medically separated from the Air Force.

With this news he began to lose his purpose, and needed to find something to focus on. His First Sergeant, Senior Master Sgt. Yucari Brown, nominated him to become a member of the Air Force Wounded Warrior Program. He met the requirements and was selected to become a member.

“Every single person that works for the Air Force Wounded Warrior Program or volunteers for it will always be there for anyone who needs them,” said Powell. “They will continuously reach out to other programs to help us get the resources that we need for our recovery. And they do that for everybody in the program. It’s not like they’re only doing it for me. They’ll do it for you, they’ll do it for anybody in the Air Force that reaches out and needs help.”

A few months later, he went into work and checked his email as usual. He had received a message from the Air Force Wounded Warrior Program.

The message invited him to take part in the Air Force Trials, paralympic style games that are adjusted to the physical capabilities of each wounded warrior. Air Force Trials participants compete to earn one of 40 slots on Team Air Force, which goes on to compete in the Department of Defense’s Warrior Games.

This intrigued Powell. He began relentlessly training on the track and in the pool.
“I was a swimmer in high school, but decided I didn’t want to swim anymore for personal reasons,” said Powell. “Whenever I was going through the med board and dealing with some mental health and physical issues, I wasn’t really able to work toward anything in my job anymore. But getting into the Wounded Warrior Program, there’s an athletic competition, and something I’m good at. So I started swimming three days a week, I started running based off of my profile, and it gave me something to work toward instead of just sitting around and doing nothing.”

The trials were held at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada. Once Powell arrived, he was pleasantly surprised with the way he and his fellow wounded warriors were treated.

“At the events, they treat us like professional athletes,” said Powell. “Whenever we go to these events we have tight muscles, they have massage tables. There are several athletic trainers and physical therapists training out of the Air Force Academy, and they were our physical therapists for those events. They took extremely good care of us.”

At the Air Force trials, there were just over 100 Wounded Warrior athletes including an Army team, a United Kingdom team and a team from The Republic of Georgia.

While at the event, Powell participated in five swimming events, two track events and compound archery.
His training paid off. He managed to take home a gold medal in every swimming event he participated in as well as silver and bronze in track. Additionally, he was selected as one of only 40 participants to compete in the 2023 Warrior Games.
Despite his setbacks, Powell managed to find his purpose again. He is now planning on moving to Indiana to pursue a doctorate in nursing.

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