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NEWS | Dec. 20, 2023

2023 AR Summit takeaway- “No Soldier goes through this alone.”

By MaryTherese Griffin ARCP

Adaptive reconditioning (AR) planning is a year-round process within the Army Recovery Care Program. Ensuring wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers have the best possible care is paramount. At the 2023 AR Summit earlier this month at Fort Belvoir, everyone with a hand in a Soldier’s recovery came to watch, listen, and learn.

“The opportunity for all of us to get together and share best practices, learn policies and procedures, and discuss fostering a team environment is the best way to connect. We have to share what's working and what’s not and how we can better help our Soldiers,” said Dr. Yvonne La Rochelle- the Battalion physical therapist at the FT Stewart Soldier Recovery Unit (SRU) in Georgia.

Adaptive reconditioning includes everything from music, art, and outdoor recreational sports to full-on adaptive sports. As a physical therapist, LaRochelle explained the adaptive sports angle and how governing the process is continuous. She says gatherings like the recent AR Summit are needed to kick things off for the new year of adaptive sporting events.

“We learned a lot, for example, about best practices for our local trials. Each year, we must develop our trial process to select our athletes to represent our SRU and, ultimately, the Army once we get to Warrior Games status. This is our opportunity to learn how to order the proper equipment, how to maintain it, and ways to develop training programs so Soldiers can benefit from it and thrive not just in the competition phase but beyond that in their everyday lives in the future.”

Beyond the competition is the journey she hopes for Soldiers to continue improving. She is proud to be part of the team to help. “No Soldier goes through this alone,” said LaRochelle, who is in full-on Army Trials mode in anticipation of the event at Fort Liberty this coming March and getting Soldiers ready. But make no mistake, it’s not all about the medals and competition, she says.

“This is just a start. For some, it catapults them into the world of adaptive sports. It’s not just about the actual sport. It’s about the connections they can make, the mental and spiritual aspects, future job possibilities, and more coming out of this.”

Everyone in Adaptive Reconditioning recognizes that, for some, this is the only thing that gets them going, and it may be the first realization a Soldier has that they can still do things but differently. Larochelle says she sees what it does for Soldiers for the first time, and that’s how she knows the program is needed and hopes it continues to grow.

“It's an eye-opener that life is not done, and adaptations and modifications exist to do what they love. Sports as a team may not be a direct rehab avenue, but it is rehab because you are working on neuro, balance strength, and not neglecting the mind. This camaraderie is also crucial, and getting Soldiers out of the barracks when they are wounded, ill, or injured helps them be part of a team again. These adaptive sports and adaptive reconditioning events provide the best possible path to success for them.”