Duke Field member to compete at 2014 Warrior Games
By Tech. Sgt. Jasmin Taylor, 919th Special Operations Wing Public Affairs
/ Published September 24, 2014
DUKE FIELD, Fla. -- A member of the 919th Special Operations Wing is one of the first U.S. Special Operations Command female to compete this year in the 5th annual Warrior Games competition.
Kimberley Hernandez, a quality assurance civilian with the 919th Special Operations Logistics Readiness Squadron, said she is very excited and honored to be on the team this year. The Warrior Games begin Sept. 28 in Colorado Springs, Colorado at the U.S. Olympic Training Center.
The event, hosted by the U.S. Olympic Committee's Paralympic Military Program, showcases more than 200 wounded, ill and injured members from all services.
"Coming from some serious depression, the preparation for the competition is mentally healing," Hernandez said. "I've come to a point in my life where I need to quit doing nothing and get out of the house and de-stress."
The Warrior Games help elevate abilities through athletic competition and events such as shooting, swimming, archery, sitting volleyball, cycling, track and field and wheelchair basketball according to the United States Olympic Committee.
Hernandez represents the Air Force team in the 400 and 1500 meter run and in the air rifle shooting competition. She mentioned the air rifle event is a natural fit for her, because she grew up shooting with her dad in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
"He would take us hunting as kids and shoot stuff at the local dump," said Hernandez, who took firearm safety at age 12. "I grew up to respect weapons. They are not toys."
Hernandez began her military career in 1986 by enlisting in the Army. She separated from the Army in 1998 and joined the Air Force as a reservist. In 2010, she was medically retired due to a neck injury she received from a helicopter hard landing in 1991.
Her combat-related injury qualified her to participate in the Warrior Games. She participated in three camps this year to prepare for the competition.
The camp, held in March, was to condition the participants and also served as the qualification process.
SOCOM requested a female participant for each event this year if possible. Because Hernandez and one other female were the only two females in the qualification Camp, they were allowed to choose categories that best fit their capabilities. Hernandez chose to compete in the long distance runs.
The final selections for the official team were announced in May. Since the official selection, her preparation for the competition consisted of running five days a week, air rifle shooting at targets, and camps.
In June, a camp was formed to train the selectees of the shooting category. During that time, Hernandez was able to significantly improve her score. The last camp was a conditioning camp in July. This camp focused on nutrition, physical and mental health.
"It's not so much about the focus or technique, but about the socialization," said the 51-year-old competitor.
She said she relishes the relationships she's building with her teammates and the impact it's having on her during a pivotal time in her personal and professional life.
"Just being able to hang out with the other competitors, with the drive and passion they have, is another form of medicine for me," said Hernandez. "They may be wounded, but they are world-class athletes performing at a high level, and some of them perform better than able-bodied athletes."
During the competition, Hernandez will have the support of her sister and her son Pfc. Yash Hernandez-Kraskey, 4th Cavalry Aviation Brigade, who will be in attendance.
"I've never been able to share my military experience with my family, and I am so excited they have the opportunity to witness this experience in person," said Hernandez.
The Warrior Games is a joint effort of the U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, U.S. Olympic Committee, with support provided by the United Services Organization, the Fisher House Foundation and the Bob Woodruff Foundation and Deloitte. Competition ends Oct. 3.