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NEWS | March 5, 2024

Retired Army Pilot has his “sites” set on Team Army

By MaryTherese Griffin Army Recovery Care Program

When you spend 36 years in the Army, you’ve seen a lot! Retired Chief Warrant Officer 5 Bruce McCormick has probably seen more than most as a helicopter pilot with six deployments under his belt. He retired in 2022, but not before a visit through the Army Recovery Care Program. It all started with an injury from a deployment in 2005. “It was 2005 in Iraq outside Balad,” recalled McCormick. “I came off an aircraft all geared up and with goggles and slipped, crushing the joint in my ankle."

He’s had ten surgeries. The first one didn’t heal as they’d hoped. The bone didn’t regrow, so his healthcare team started looking for other options. “In 2015 I got a 19-year-old who was in a car accident who was on a donor list and his talus matched closely to mine so I had the surgery to get everything back together,” he said.

McCormick eventually went to the Fort Carson Soldier Recovery Unit where he used adaptive sports to gain his resilience back. “In 2019 I was at the Fort Carson SRU, and I met Marc Cattapan (recreational therapist, Fort Carson SRU) who encouraged me to try out for Army Trials because one of the adaptive reconditioning tools I used was swimming; in fact, he used to call me Aqua Man,” he added. McCormick was there through 2020, then transferred to Fort Moore in 2021 due to pulmonary issues acclimating to the Colorado air.

“Now I am daddy chauffeur! I am married and have five daughters; the oldest two are out of the house. We have a 9, 13, and 15-year-old (still at home). We travel for soccer, swimming, and all the travel sports.”

A sportsman himself in high school, McCormick has his “sites” set on Team Army with the opportunity to compete at this year's Department of Defense Warrior Games in Orlando this June. He is competing in air rifle, swimming, cycling, rowing, and team sports. “My girls are more interested in me making the team and going to Disney,” he laughed. “The youngest has the most interest because dad gets to swim. I am always on her case about her swimming so if I don’t do well my athletic daughters will judge me and my 10-year-old will say I don’t think you should be coaching me or teaching me anymore dad!”

He was training to try out in 2020, and then COVID happened. He’s here at Fort Liberty for redemption at the 2024 Army Trials. “In the military, you're always supposed to be the best of the best, and when you get injured or something happens, now there's a huge gap in your self-esteem or well-being,” said McCormick. “Thinking I used to be this elite warrior and I could do all these things and now I can’t, adaptive sports shows you that you can do things with some adjustments, and now it gives you a rebirth and new life.”

McCormick is laser-focused and ready to show what he can do. “My kids hear all the stories of what I did,” he explained. “There was never a ‘take my daughter to work day,’ so making Team Army and having them see what I do would be amazing - a definite proud moment.”