Keesler member swims, bikes, runs

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Michael Alvarez
  • 81st Training Wing Public Affairs
One of the top 12 male triathletes from the Air Force, Army, Marines, Navy and Canadian forces competing in the annual Armed Forces Championships June 1, is from Keesler.

Keesler's own Orthopaedic Surgeon, Maj. James Bales, is a two-time defending triathlon champion. The triathlon race was held at the Naval Base Ventura County, Point Mugu, Calif. The race consists of a 1500-meter swim, 40-kilometer bike, and a 10-kilometer run. This year Maj. Bales earned a silver medal with a time of 1:49:57.

"I became a triathlete because I was a medical student studying in Georgetown University and needed to commute 10 miles a day each way, so I would run and/or bike in order to save money," he said.

Bales became a professional triathlete in 2009 after winning national-level races and becoming nationally-ranked. In 2010-2012, he earned a spot on the World Class Athlete Program to compete against other athletes to earn one of two spots in the 2012 Olympic games in London. He barely missed the Olympic team. The World Class Athlete Program is designed to help nationally-ranked athletes train toward a goal of competing in the Olympics. Air Force athletes are limited to two years.

"Racing WCAP was the opportunity of a lifetime. Traveling around the world and competing against the best, representing the Air Force, and chasing a dream was an experience I will never forget," said Bales. "It was disappointing not making the 2012 Olympic team, but the journey while attempting to make the Olympic team is something I will always value."

Now Bales is the head coach for the Warrior Games, where sick, ill, or injured warriors can compete against other branches' wounded warriors. This includes active duty, medically separated or retiree personnel.

"James' work ethic is unsurpassed. As a doctor, father, and professional athlete, he makes it look easy, pouring himself into every aspect of his life," said Cami Stock, Air Force Warrior Team associate head coach. "As a coach, he never expects anything from anyone that he hasn't already done himself--he walks the walk in everything he does and leads by example. As a teammate, he is the calm, strategic presence, ensuring the athlete has a challenging but reachable goal while still making it fun in the process."

Bales plans for 2014 are to start a training camp for wounded warriors here at Keesler to better their chances of making the Air Force Wounded Warrior team and compete in the Warrior Games.

"I'm working with the Air Force Wounded Warrior Squadron in San Antonio to set this up," said Bales. "This will be good for Keesler and good for the athletes."