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NEWS | Jan. 17, 2024

I'm a buck-35 and 5 foot 9 - I can adapt to anything!

By MaryTherese Griffin Army Recovery Care Program

The title of this article alone should make you want to read about a tenacious young Soldier at this year’s wheelchair rugby camp. At the age of 24, Sgt Alexander Robison has lived a lifetime of adventure already, some of it he’d like to forget, but all of it he knows brought him to where he is today. It all started on a deployment just over a year ago.

“I was deployed in the fall of 2022 in the Middle East. I was tasked to assist in mechanical repairs for the Infantry. We got hit by a suicide bomber, and I was six feet away. I sustained a lot of injuries. I had emergency surgery and ended up at Walter Reed.”

The all-wheel mechanic had internal bleeding and needed blood transfusions; he had liver damage and lost both his spleen and pancreas. A year later, his recovery at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center Soldier Recovery Unit was going so well that he took up a new sport. Wheelchair rugby!

“I’ve never played wheelchair rugby competitively. The Adaptive Reconditioning Team at Walter Reed introduced me to it, giving me something to look forward to. From the teammates to the coaches, I’ve found this is also incredibly good for my recovery.” Robison lauds the care he received in the Army Recovery Care Program, something he was unaware of at the time, was there for him should he need it.

“I am in the National Guard, and this was my first major deployment. I did not know what an SRU was. I’m learning more about the care the Army offers, and the quality of care and support from leadership at Walter Reed’s SRU is phenomenal. I’ve been there for nine months,” said the Ohio National Guardsman.

“I still struggle with PTSD too. Here at the SRU, I get to bond with other Soldiers, and the counselors and leadership are helping me to recover. If this program were not here, I don’t know what would have happened to me.”

Adaptive sports happened to him. At the 2024 Wheelchair Rugby Camp at Fort Belvoir, Robison got a crash course in confidence and safety. “The coaching staff always boosts confidence in athletes no matter their size; even if I am the smallest one, I do always push myself to be the better one, even if it's just to push my teammates if it’s to make them better, which makes us better.”

Wheelchair Rugby coach and former Team Army and Team US member Joel Rodriguez was clear on making this group of fourteen Team Army hopefuls better. He explained the logistics of the high-energy sport that has had team members of all shapes and sizes. “Are there positions in this sport? The answer is yes and no. Everyone can play offense, and everyone can play defense. Safety is the number one rule in this sport, and we will get you there.”

The next stop after this camp is to compete for a spot on Team Army at the 2024 Army Trials at Fort Liberty, North Carolina, in March. Robison isn’t letting his size deter him from individual or Team Sports. Wearing Team Army on his chest at the 2024 Warrior Games, he says, is a great motivator and helps push him in his recovery. “I always say the smaller guys are the biggest ones in the fight.”

Robison will not be returned to duty because of his injuries but is thankful for the support of the SRU and family.

“I do have a hopeful future. I know there will be challenges due to my nerve and back issues, PTSD, and memory loss. I have family help, thank goodness. I want to get into the business side of my passion, which is working on motorcycles .”

But before he tackles those wheels, he is focused and thankful for the tools afforded him through Adaptive reconditioning. “The people I’ve met through adaptive sports have pushed me along, and I am better for it. I want to return the favor and help others no matter what they’ve been through. I want to help get them where they want to be just like I was helped.”