“Competitors. On your mark. Load. START!”
On command, approximately 20 individuals insert .177 caliber air pellets into their magazines. The crowd goes wild as they anticipate the start of the Department of Defense 2016 Wounded Warrior Games at the United States Military Academy in West Point, N.Y.
Retired U.S. Air Force Capt. Amanda Frey, shuts out the crowd’s antics and focuses on her target. She aims for the stationary target 10 meters away, knowing she has a chance to bring home the gold.
Although the stakes are high and competition is stiff, Frey, who sustained a traumatic brain injury in a convoy roller in Iraq, couldn’t imagine helping the Air Force shooting team garner first place honors in the overall competition without the guidance of her coach, Maj. Robert Davis, 93d Air Ground Operations Wing director of complaints resolution.
While recovering in the Air Force Wounded Warrior Program, Frey earned a position on the shooting team, even though she rarely shot outside of military training. After meeting Davis at the 2016 Air Force Trials competition, she credits Davis for turning her resurfaced passion for hobbies into a lifestyle change with shooting.
“Shooting is a calming, therapeutic experience for me,” said Frey, who also mentions that shooting helps her manage stress and improve focus and memory. “[Davis] taught me tune out distractions and focus on the next shot. All that matters is where I’m headed and not where I’m coming from. These lessons pushed me forward and I’ve transferred this perspective into my own life.”
Davis has relayed this perspective and proper shooting techniques to more than 75 athletes under his guidance as a mechanism to motivate them throughout their recovery and rehabilitation process.
“Shooting, like most things in life, is mostly mental,” said Davis. “It’s 80 percent mental [will power] and 20 percent [shooting] technique. This is why I tell the athletes to ‘check themselves at the door,’ so that they can put away their distractions and have a clear, focused mind. I ask them to establish goals because having goals helps you maintain that focus.”
One of Frey’s focal points has been to not dwell on the past, even though her medical ailment impacts her everyday life.
“My injury has limited me as I face problems with my balance, memory, cognitive processing and migraines,” said Frey. “These issues are the reason for my daily ups and downs. It’s hard to deal with but I’m thankful for the good days that I have. I must admit, after the incident I didn’t know what to do next.”
Frey says she’s fortunate that her quest for the next step was refigured with Davis’ assistance. As she grew comfortable with shooting and competitively shot for the first time, her next goal was to compete with her husband at unrelated military events as they try to triumph her challenges together.
“She’s always has been a blessing and her [medical ailment] has brought us closer,” Jason Frey added. “I’m glad the program was able to rejuvenate her and spark an interest in something we both enjoy.”
As the couple plans to compete recreationally, Amanda Frey, with the help of Davis, hopes that her story can help realign other wounded warrior’s focuses towards accomplishing their goals.
“One of the first things I told [Amanda] was to enjoy this sport, you have to be able to laugh and not take yourself too seriously to get better,” Davis added. “It’s not easy but you have to balance the hard work and fun which Amanda has accomplished and done exceptionally well.”
Davis is proud of Amanda’s successful efforts in redefining her life and has goals of continuing to help future athletes.