Resiliency, perseverance fuel SA's competitive drive

  • Published
  • By Wayne Amann
  • AFOSI Public Affairs

When Air Force Office of Special Investigations Special Agent (Master Sgt.) Bill Lickman does his best, he answers to his toughest critic – himself.


The June 2018 Department of Defense Warrior Games at the United States Air Force Academy, Colo., gave SA Lickman another challenge to test his mettle, vying against teams representing the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Special Operations Command plus the U.K. Armed Forces, Australian Defence Force and Canadian Armed Forces.


“The Warrior Games gave me a definitive, measurable goal to train for, knowing I needed to be at my best not only for myself, but for my team,” the SA stationed at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., said. “When I train and compete my focus is on doing my best at the task at hand, and in that moment, all is well.”   


All was not well for the Chesaning, Mich., native on 9/11 as a Security Forces member on the Joint Staff at the Pentagon. He received a Purple Heart for injuries he sustained that fateful day.


His chronology as a Wounded Warrior athlete began in the summer of 2016 when the Air Force enrolled him in its Wounded Warrior Program (AFW2), as part of a mass-enrollment of all active duty Purple Heart recipients.


Later that year, with the help of the local Recovery Care Nurse, who acts as the case manager for all active duty members enrolled in AFW2 at Tyndall AFB, and his assigned AFW2 Recovery Care Coordinator, Lickman re-started his specialized care and got involved with AFW2’s adaptive and rehabilitative sports programs.


His first AFW2 event was the Air Force Trials at Nellis AFB, Nev., in February 2017. The annual Paralympic style sports competition selects 40 primary and 10 alternates for the Air Force Wounded Warrior Team to compete at the Department of Defense Wounded Warrior Games later in the year.   


The Trials feature between 120-to-150 wounded, ill, and injured athletes representing the Air Force, Army, United Kingdom military and Australian Defense Force.


Lickman’s injuries/illnesses as listed by AFW2 are: traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder, tinnitus, vision, respiratory and rhabdomyolysis (a breakdown of skeletal muscle due to direct or indirect muscle injury).  


“I didn’t have any real fitness training in the months leading up to the Trials and no experience at all in the few events I competed in for my injury classifications,” Lickman said.


However, his efforts, (two silver medals in track for the 4x100 meter relay and 400 meter dash, 4th place in the 200 meter dash and 5th place in the 100 meter dash; 5th place in the standing air pistol; a credible showing in the one minute indoor rowing sprint; his sitting volleyball team finishing fourth in the bronze medal match) earned him a spot at the AFW2’s Warrior Games Training Camp at Eglin AFB, Fla., in April, 2017, as an alternate.


At the camp Lickman trained for track, shooting and volleyball. Six weeks after camp broke, and three weeks prior to the DoD Warrior Games hosted by the U.S. Navy in Chicago, he was named one of the 40 athletes on the primary team, specifically to compete in track and volleyball where he continued to do well: a bronze medal for third place in the 400 meter dash, plus 8th in the 200 meter dash and 9th in the 100 meter dash; his volleyball team finished 4th in the bronze medal match.


Soon after, the focused Special Agent attended his first AFW2 Introduction to Adaptive and Rehabilitative Sports Camp, also known as a CARE event at Offutt AFB, Neb. CARE events place each AFW2 Warrior on a team led by a peer mentor. Each team spends a week together trying all the adaptive/rehabilitative sports found at the Trials and Warrior Games. The participants build relationships through the sports, what they’re capable of in each sport regardless of their injury and see how any sport would be helpful in their physical or mental recovery.


At the Offutt camp’s closing ceremony Lickman was presented the Sportsmanship Award.


“I returned home with a new network of fellow Warriors I knew I could lean on for support and guidance,” he said. “It gave me confidence I could be competitive in multiple sports if I put forth the effort to train, and the reaffirmation that I’m a good leader and mentor when given the right environment and support.”


In November 2017 his attention shifted to Recovering Airman Mentorship Program training and competitive team sports training at Andrews AFB, Md.


“RAMP training allows me to serve as a peer mentor to other AFW2 Warriors, serve as a sport mentor at CARE events and organize community service activities bringing AFW2 Warriors together outside the larger camps and competitions,” Lickman said.


During the team sports training he was among 15-20 athletes targeted for AFW2’s new “competitive track” for advanced training in sitting volleyball, wheelchair basketball and wheelchair rugby, while serving as sport mentors for non-competitive Warriors attending the Andrews CARE event.


Lickman was one of only two athletes selected to play all three sports. At the end of this training his Air Force team defeated a similarly-trained Marine team in all three sports. He also joined four other AFW2 Warriors during a competition in Baltimore, Md., to promote the 2018 Warrior Games in which the Air Force consistently defeated Army and Navy teams.


Just two days after completing a six-week TDY at AFOSI Headquarters, Quantico, Va., he returned to the February 2018 Air Force Trials at Nellis, where he continued to excel.


He garnered a gold medal and three silvers in track for finishing first in the 4x100 meter relay and second in the 400 meter, 200 meter and 100 meter dashes; in shooting he won a bronze medal for taking third in the standing air pistol; in archery he finished in the top eight compound bow archers only to drop the first round of the finals to the eventual gold medalist; in cycling he placed 10th overall in the men’s upright cycling 30K course; his sitting volleyball team earned the gold medal in the pool-play tournament while his wheelchair basketball team was defeated by the eventual gold-medal winners.


At the closing ceremony Lickman was named the Air Force Warrior Games team co-captain, responsible for conducting team management duties preparing for the Air Force Warrior Games Training Camp at Eglin and the DoD Warrior Games at the USAF Academy.


“Representing the Air Force at the DoD Warrior Games for a second year was an honor in itself, but serving as the team’s co-captain made it much more meaningful, especially with the Games being held at the Academy and team Air Force earning the DoD Championship with a record-setting 165 medals,” he said.


Lickman contributed admirably to his team’s success. Of the eight events he competed in, he tallied silver medals in sitting volleyball and the 4x100 meter relay in track. He also recorded a bronze medal in the 400 meter dash plus 4th place finishes in the 200 and 100 meter dashes and in the 10 meter standing air pistol shooting event.


The rarefied air of Colorado’s Rocky Mountains had little, if any, effect on Lickman’s performance.


“You would think coming from the Florida coast would make things worse, but I barely noticed the altitude,” he said. “Through fitness, constant hydration, electrolyte replacement, clean eating and no alcohol before and during the Games, I was able to avoid the headaches and fatigue many people experience at altitude.”


Reflecting on his participation in the DoD Warrior Games the Special Agent says the experience far outweighs the medals.


“The relationships we built and the lessons we learned leading up to and through the Games are the true rewards,” Lickman said. “My teammates' stories, struggles and successes are inspirational and I’m humbled to lead and compete alongside them. I’m grateful to AFW2 for seeing potential in me and giving me a chance to be part of a team again. I look forward to continuing as a mentor to other Warriors in the program and an ambassador to those outside of it.”