In the news: Tampa Tribune

Howard Altman wrote a short bit about the Aconcagua challenge (you have to dig through the column so here’s what he wrote about us)

I had the great pleasure Friday night of attending the send-off for the latest adventure from the Combat Wounded Veteran Challenge, who are embarking on their third mountain climb, this time to Aconcagua, located in the Andes mountain range on the border of Argentina and Chile. At 22,841 feet, Aconcagua is the world’s second-highest.

As with the other trips, the group, run by retired Navy Capt. David Olson, is made up of those who have lost limbs and suffered brain injuries and post traumatic stress disorder as a result of their service and who are helping assess prosthetic design, traumatic brain injury and PTSD. This year’s trip includes four-time space shuttle astronaut Dom Gorie.

You can follow the adventures of the team, which pushed off Sunday and end their expedition March 4, at To learn more about the prosthetics, go to To learn more about the PTSD effort, go to

original location of article:

Wounded veterans set sail in weekend race

Combat Wounded Veteran Challenge is in the news again. Thanks to Howard Altman for writing such a great article!

After regaling the gathering of combat wounded with his stories of helping hunt down drug lord Pablo Escobar then taking part in the invasion of Panama, Nelson Corbin gets serious.

“We are the only military group here,” says Corbin, a retired Green Beret sergeant major as he addresses the nine men about to board 23-foot sailboats at the St. Petersburg Yacht Club. “Let’s show them who we are.”

Corbin, 59, is serving as the operations officer for the Combat Wounded Veteran Challenge. Founded by retired Navy Capt. Dave Olson, the Tarpon Springs-based organization combines adventure sports, mental and physical therapy and scientific study to help troops overcome their injuries now and in the future.

Sailing since he was a child growing up in North Carolina, Corbin is now in charge of turning a group of rookies into a cohesive, winning team.

They tasted victory in their first race, sweeping the novice divisions of the Galveston Disabled Sailing Championships in October.

For men who mostly never sailed before, let alone competitively, that was a big deal. Such a big deal, says Corbin, that he and Gerard Coleman, the Texas A&M sailing team coach who worked with them, agreed to return for the America’s Disabled Open Regatta, which started Friday and runs through Sunday.

This race is even bigger.

“This is a Paralympic tune-up,” says Shawn Macking, the yacht club’s waterfront director. ”There is international competition here. It is going to be stiff.”

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On a foggy Thursday morning, the kitchen of Carol Martin’s waterfront Tarpon Springs manse is filled with men who bear the wounds, seen and unseen, of 13 years of war. Some are missing limbs, some are full of plates and pins and some have battle-damaged brains or some combination of several maladies. Many struggle with post traumatic stress disorder.

They have been here since Monday evening, gathered by Olson, who has transformed Martin’s home into a very comfortable command outpost, complete with a yacht for mental health therapy sessions.

“Sailing is a familial thing,” says Olson. “It brings people together.”

It is breakfast time and the men are chowing down on cheese and ham omelet, muffins, croissants and fruit, gathering energy for what will be a long day in the hot sun.

They are alternately nervous and excited.

“I don’t know what to expect,” says Ken Patterson.

In October 2010, Patterson, an Army staff sergeant, was on a Chinook CH-47 helicopter which had just landed at an Afghan National Army base to drop off food and water. But before it could take off again, an insurgent dressed as an Afghan soldier fired a rocket propelled grenade. The RPG’s fins sliced off portions of both Patterson’s legs below the knees.

Sharing a story common among the combat wounded, Patterson says the rehabilitation and coming to grips with his new reality was arduous. Sailing, and spending time with fellow war injured helps.

“With the depression and everything else you go through, you never really have to explain yourself,” he says.

Like Patterson, Brian Miller, 47, of Rockwell, North Carolina, is an amputee. In 2008, Miller was heading back to his base near Baghdad when the Stryker he was riding in was hit by an explosively formed penetrator, a projectile specially designed to penetrate armor. After months of excruciating pain and little hope for full recovery, the medically retired Army sergeant had his left leg amputated above the knee.

With a mission-oriented mentality forged by years of service, Miller says that joining Olson’s sailing program provides much needed mental and physical challenges and a return to a familiar way of life, says Miller.

“Getting ready and preparing for the mission is important,” he says. “It takes you back to being in a combat situation. I want to know the guys have my back and I have their back.”

Gerard Coleman, a classmate and sailing teammate of Olson’s at the Naval Academy, says that in many ways, a regatta race is more rewarding for combat wounded than even scaling a mountain, which Olson’s group has done several times now.

While climbing a mountain like Mt. McKinley or Kilimanjaro is certainly far more dangerous and physically challenging, sailing “is totally a team effort,” says Coleman, the Texas A&M coach,

With each 23-foot Sonar racing boat having three to a team, it takes everyone working together to get anywhere, says Coleman. His mission over the week is to teach the neophyte sailors how to race other boats, to master their own boat and how to read the wind and the weather.

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Carrie Elk has a similar mission with the Combat Wounded Veteran Challenge. But instead of getting the men to understand their boats and how they are effected by the elements, she is helping them understand how their injuries have affected their mind.

Elk, founder of the Elk Institute for Psychological Health and Performance, has three goals for this week. Training on what psychological trauma is and how it can be treated; treating mental trauma and helping the men cope with their experiences; and observing the men in adventure-based team activities and stressful situations to see how that affects their PTSD.

Before the men even arrived, they had to fill out 20-page questionnaires so that Elk could develop a working profile of their psychological health. Elk is trying to ascertain their levels of post traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, anxiety, depression, anger, aggression, loss of control and loneliness. With that information in hand, she will observe the men as they react to stressful situations, and then follow that up with debriefings to learn how they experienced the events.

Each man also underwent individual therapy sessions with Elk.

The sessions were held on Martin’s 85-foot luxury yacht called Sojourn, moored at a dock about 200 yards from her house. The yacht was chosen both because it is a comfortable setting and is far enough from the house that it offered privacy. And each man was required to take part so that no one felt a stigma of seeking treatment.

The sessions were originally slated for 90 minutes, says Elk. Most went longer.

Those experiencing PTSD underwent a trauma therapy that reprocesses how the mind stores memories.

“The memories don’t go away,” says Elk, who has been an instructor at U.S. Special Operation Command’s Joint Special Operations University. “They are just reprocessed so they no longer elicit a traumatic response.”

In conversations, the men bring up the therapy sessions without prompting.

Nathan Deneault, 28, is a former Navy seaman who helped more than 14,000 jets land aboard the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan before accidently falling 70 feet on the ship, leaving him with severe traumatic brain injuries and PTSD, partly as a result of the incident, partly as the result of the difficulty he has trying to get his body to move the way he wants it to. The therapy, says Deneault, helped him.

“I feel more comfortable, more relaxed,” says Nate Deneault. “I am energized and slept great last night.”

Having Elk along to study and treat adds tremendous value to the Combat Wounded Veteran Challenge says Anthony Webster, an Army medic who was severely injured while assigned to a commando unit seeking high value targets in Zhari District of Afghanistan’s Kandahar Province.

“This doesn’t just put a band-aid on the problem and have guys come for a week or two and have fun,” says Webster, who in his civilian life once provided personal security for the Red Sox, including David Ortiz.

For Olson’s program, there was an added bonus. Elk brought Charles Claybaker, a 2006 St. Petersburg High School graduate, to talk about how the therapy has helped him. Claybaker, 30 was an Army Ranger badly injured on April 9, 2010 when the Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft he was riding in crashed in Afghanistan, slamming into the ground at more than 180 miles per hour. He suffered a wide range of physical injuries and mental trauma and says that the therapy has helped him cope with PTSD.

Needing another racer, the guys recruited Claybaker.

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Thursday afternoon, the men prepare the boats and set off to practice. For most it is the first time they hit the water since Galveston. Weather depending, they will take part in more than a dozen four-mile races, lasting about an hour each, until a winner is crowned Sunday. They will be competing against boats from around the U.S., as well as Sweden and Ireland, whose crew includes John Twomey, the president of the International Organization for Disabled Sailing.

In boat No. 7, Claybaker is making his first trip, joining Deneault and Patterson to make up one of the Combat Wounded Veteran Challenge’s three teams.

The first to leave the dock, they get the 23-footer moving pretty quickly, but before getting too far, they realize their way out to Tampa Bay is blocked by massive yachts gathered for a boat show.

“My bad,” says Claybaker, who is manning the bow and working the jib sail.

Still, the newly formed team deftly tacks, catches the wind and turns the boat around, making its way out to Tampa Bay.

“Wow, that is really awesome,” says Patterson, viewing the inverted pyramid of the St. Petersburg Pier for the first time. “I know a lot of people in St. Pete might not like it, but man, that’s beautiful.”

Deneault, who like Patterson was part of the successful effort in Galveston, is in charge, calling out when to tack, or turn into the wind, and timing their efforts.

It is a perfect day for sailing, warm, but not sweltering, with just enough wind to propel the boat but not so fierce that the seas swell.

Overhead, the unmistakable gray contour of the KC-135 Stratotanker refueling jet is making its approach to MacDill Air Force Base. On the water, the unmistakable gray fins of dolphins pop up.

“That is so cool,” says Patterson, watching the dolphins play with a yellow race marker. “They say that dolphins are smarter than humans.”

For the men in boat No. 7, it has been a good tune-up, says Deneault.

“We are getting ready for the competition that is coming over the next couple of days,” he says. “This was a chance for bonding. And brotherhood.”

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Those good vibes take a hit as the first day of racing doesn’t go as well as hoped. The Combat Wounded Veteran Challenge teams finish last out of the 12 teams competing in Friday’s races.

Though there are still two days of racing left, including today , and victory is not the ultimate goal of the program, “everyone is disappointed in their performance,” says Coleman,

Highly competitive, “they were expecting better results, given their performance at Galveston,” says Coleman, “However, they have only been competing for a week and a half against people who are Paralympic world champions, like Twomey, who have been racing for 40 years.”

Credit/Source: | (813) 259-7629  | @haltman | Original Article Link

In the News: New promising PTSD treatment outside doctor’s office

In the News: New promising PTSD treatment outside doctor’s office

Combat Wounded Veteran Challenge was featured on WFLA this week!  Here’s the article, and the link below will take you to the site where you will also find the video.


Major progress is being made in treating post traumatic stress disorder, thanks to research happening right here in Tampa Bay.

What makes this treatment protocol so interesting is that it’s nowhere near a doctor’s office.

Wounded warriors side-lined by massive brain injuries, those who have had limbs blown off, or ones who are dealing with intense bouts of PTSD are being treated while on adventure based excursions.

“I look forward to going sailing I look forward to working the jib sheet, and getting back out there, there are other challenges like mountain climbing I want to go do it. I want to get back to who I was,” said Anthony Webster, who participates in “Combat Wounded Veteran Challenge” excursions.

The non-profit organization run by military members for wounded veterans travels the world taking vets on adventures. What makes this different from any other organization that helps our military, is there is a huge research component that happens on the excursions.

For example, during a huge competitive regatta happening this weekend in St. Petersburg, a licensed mental health expert who has experience working with vets will climb on board a sailboat to participate in the research.

“I can clinically observe the PTSD the symptoms and issues in the group, and help them while they are here doing something fun,” said Dr. Carrie Elk of the Elk Institute.

The Elk Institute is also a non-profit that has partnered with Combat Wounded Veteran Challenge to treat retired and active military members dealing with PTSD.

Combat Wounded Warriors was founded four years ago, and has seen retired military make tremendous strides by attending the adventures that include everything from climbing mountains to scuba diving.

This weekend veterans from all across the country are in town to participate in the America’s Disabled Open Regatta.

The veterans pay nothing out of pocket to participate in the challenges, but by being part of the research, they are helping other wounded vets who will one day be able to attend the same outings.

Many also leave with a new perspective on life, and can’t wait for the next journey.

“They’ll be the first one to tell you hey this was my last ditch effort – I was going to hang it up and retired to my living room and stay locked in my house,” said retired military leader Nelson Corbin.

He explained that every vet, including his son, who is a double amputee, feels better and is once again ready to face the world.

If you would like to find out more about Combat Wounded Veterans Challenge, or head out to support the wounded warriors participating in this weekend regatta, visit


WFLA Article/video located here


Sailing Challenge mentioned in Tampa Tribune

Our upcoming sailing challenge was mentioned in the Tampa Tribune!  Reporter Howard Altman wrote

“The effects of the last U.S. foray into Iraq are still being felt by veterans like Army Staff Sgt. Ryan James Moore, who was badly wounded there in 2008.

But just because they are wounded doesn’t mean they are conquered. Starting on Thursday, Moore and eight other wounded veterans will be taking part in the America’s Disabled/Open Regatta Sailing Championships at the St. Petersburg Yacht Club St. Petersburg, which runs from Thursday through Sunday.

Moore and the others will sail thanks to the Combat Wounded Veteran Challenge, an organization formed by retired Navy captain David Olson. It’s part of the organization’s ongoing efforts to show the wounded, by climbing mountains, scuba diving and other endeavors, that they aren’t conquered, despite their injuries.

Even with limited training, Olson’s sailors have done well so far, sweeping the novice divisions of the Galveston Disabled Sailing Championships in October.

Aside from sailing, the veterans will take part in clinical observation by the Elk Institute for Psychological Health & Performance on how these types of outings effect those suffering from post traumatic stress disorder.

Olson says he is looking for one more wounded veteran with sailing experience to join his crew. For more information, contact him at 727-743-7192, For more information on the America’s Disabled/Open Regatta Sailing Championships, call the St. Petersburg Yacht Club, (727) 822-3113 and ask for Shawn Macking, the waterfront manager.”