Two Soldier-athletes from Fort Drum compete at 2017 Army Trials in Texas

WTU Force Structure Spc. Dylan S. Coleman, left, and Command Sgt. Maj. Oscar Mullinax Jr., both of 3-85th Mountain Infantry Warrior Transition Battalion, Fort Drum, competed in the 2017 Army Trials last week at Fort Bliss, Texas. (Photo Credit: Chuck Yang)

By Chuck Yang, Fort Drum MEDDAC PAO

FORT BLISS, Texas -- Two Soldiers from 3-85th Mountain Infantry Warrior Transition Batta- lion, Fort Drum, took up a new challenge by competing in their first Army Trials here April 2-6 in hopes of attaining a spot to represent Team Army.

Command Sgt. Maj. Oscar Mullinax Jr. and Spc. Dylan S. Coleman were among 80 wounded, ill and injured active-duty Soldiers and Army veterans from across the country who gathered to train and compete for the opportunity to represent Team Army at the 2017 Department of Defense Warrior Games, June 30 to July 8 in Chicago.

"For me, being a noncommissioned officer means to lead from the front," remarked Mullinax, senior enlisted adviser for 3-85th Mountain Infantry Warrior Transition Battalion.

Wounded in 2007, Mullinax was referred to the Center for Intrepid at San Antonio, Texas, where patients' recoveries are challenged by state-of-the-art physical therapy and occupational therapy, demanding and challenging sports equipment, and virtual reality systems.

Mullinax is also one of the first patients to be fitted with a device called Intrepid Dynamic Exoskeletal Orthosis, known as the IDEO, a streamlined, energy-storing brace that delivers nearly instantaneous results for patients with lower leg injuries.

Being an athlete and a WTB command sergeant major, Mullinax said he understands what these Soldiers are going through, from the painful recovery phase, training process and camaraderie they build along the way.

"I know what these Soldiers went through, will go through," he explained. "I understand the whole process, and I can use this experience to inspire other Soldiers in Transition." When asked about his expectations at the Trials, Mullinax simply said, "I'm just going to do my best."

Mullinax shared his unique experience as an athlete.

"Here at the Trials, I can be myself (as an athlete), I'm among the Soldiers who went through the same situation, same process. Out here, everyone sympathizes and empathizes with each other," he continued. "It's one big support system."

Mullinax competed in discus, shot put, 100- and 200-meter races, and swimming. On Day 4 of the Trials, he earned gold medals in the 100- and 200-meter races. He also earned gold in shot put and bronze in discus.

Commenting on his fellow competitor from the Fort Drum WTB, Mullinax said, "Coleman is doing a phenomenal job; I'm glad he has this opportunity to participate and bond with all the veterans and Soldiers."

Coleman, who earned the nickname "Baby" because he was the youngest in the bunch, remarked with a smile, "These guys taught me a lot just being with them this week."

His game plan on cycling was to avoid anyone passing him and focus on catching the cyclist in front. "As long as I don't get lapped, I know I'll be OK," Coleman said.

He also pointed out that some of these warriors were veterans with experience and speed. Coleman, who favored baseball through his high school, also competed in the 100-, 200- and 400-meter races.

"I am very fast and I stole many bases while I was playing baseball, and I think I'm a perfect fit for these short races," he remarked.

Sixty seconds before his event, Coleman received a final pep talk from his coach, and he was off to the races.

"This is a great learning experience, and I've made many good friends out here," he said. "I believe we'll stay as friends for a very long time."

When all of the dust settled, Coleman took gold in the 100-, 200- and 400-meter events.

Once the selection process is complete, athletes will be notified if they will represent Army at the next level.