At Invictus Games, DoD Promotes Strength Through International Collaboration

U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Lakin Booker, right, the gold medalist in the women's lightweight powerlifting event, and British Royal Navy weapons engineer Mickaela Richards, the silver medalist, pose for a photo during the 2014 Invictus Games at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London, Sept. 14, 2014. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Justyn Freeman)

In less than 2 months, a team of 115 active-duty and veteran athletes will represent the United States at the 2016 Invictus Games in Orlando, Florida. The Invictus games are an international sporting competition for wounded, ill and injured service members.

DoD’s participation in this year’s games is the continuation of an ongoing effort to build and maintain an international coalition dedicated to developing effective programs and policies for the 21st-century warrior, said James Rodriguez, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for warrior care policy.

This commitment to collaboration was most recently on display during the Warrior Care in the 21st Century Symposium held in Bethesda, Maryland, at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Oct. 20-22, he said. Thirteen nations joined DoD at the symposium for multilateral discussions on topics covering readiness, recovery, rehabilitation, reintegration and post-military support.

The symposium built upon conversations that began with the United States-United Kingdom Task Force Working Group and the 2014 Recovery Summit, in which 27 nations came together to share best practices, lessons learned and fact-based evidence gathered on warrior care during the previous 14 years of sustained conflicts.

Rodriguez said much of the driving force behind this international collaboration on warrior care can be traced to the 2013 Warrior Games, an adaptive sports competition for U.S. military athletes originally hosted by the United States Olympic Committee in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Britain's Prince Harry visited the games with a team of athletes from the U.K. armed forces, which inspired him to help create an international sporting competition for warrior-athletes, the Invictus Games. The inaugural games -- held in 2014 in London -- marked the first coming together for many nations to collaborate and mutually support wounded, ill and injured service members and veterans, Rodriguez said.

Sharing Lessons Learned
“Invictus Games promotes best practices,” said Dr. Jonathan Woodson, assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, during his opening remarks at the Warrior Care in the 21st Century Symposium. “When we bring together many nations in support of warrior-athletes, we are also providing opportunities for medical professionals, care coordinators, caregivers, family members and other support staff to collaborate and learn from one another.”

“We learned during the inaugural Invictus Games and the 2014 Recovery Summit that there is an enduring need on the part of many nations to share best practices and lessons learned,” Rodriguez said. “We must establish a common research agenda to maximize data and funding, and identify workable solutions to long term warrior care issues.”

Invictus Games 2016, scheduled for May 6 to 12, will present the next formal opportunity for international collaboration between the 15 countries scheduled to participate, he said. However, Rodriguez noted, the work done over previous years to construct an international coalition means the dialogue and sharing of information isn’t limited to structured events.

“Relationships developed during the past few years allow all participating nations to maintain an ongoing dialogue on common challenges,” he said, “determining what’s necessary to enhance and develop meaningful and measureable solutions for our wounded, ill and injured service members and their families.”
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