Advertisement

You will be redirected to the page you want to view in  seconds.

Soldier-athletes bound for Russia keep wary eye on threats

Feb. 3, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
  • Filed Under

Military athletes and coaches are heading to the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, with a mixed sense of excitement and trepidation.

For Team USA bobsledder and Army intelligence officer Capt. Chris Fogt, the excitement comes with all the fanfare and competition on winter sports’ biggest stage, along with a chance to redeem his last Olympic foray, in the 2010 Olympics, when his four-man sled crashed on Vancouver’s deadly track.

But with dozens of people dead and wounded after a spasm of suicide bombings just half a day’s drive from Sochi, and extremist groups promising to target the Games, Fogt says it’s starting to feel like he’s heading back into a combat zone.

While he says he’s confident the Russians and U.S. Olympic Committee “will do everything they can to keep us safe,” the Iraq veteran says it’s hard going to Sochi without a better sense of what’s actually happening.

“In Iraq, you could listen to stuff or pull up a UAV feed — you have a good feel for what’s going on. Going to Russia, I feel a little blind. If I had access to SIPRNET right now, I’d probably feel much safer,” he says, referring to the military classified computer network.

And then there’s that whole no-weapon thing.

“It’s going to be a whole different ball game, not wearing a uniform, not carrying a weapon, but that’s not my job right now. I’m still a soldier, but I’m there as an athlete to compete. It’s going to be weird being in that kind of environment, having such a different role and focus.”

Luger Army Sgt. Matt Mortensen says he’s trying not to let anything distract him.

“I feel pretty good. But to be honest, I wouldn’t care if there was a nuclear threat in Sochi — I would still be going. This is my time. And that’s where I need to be.”

With all the attention on amping up security at Sochi, he says, “If anything I think it’s going to leave other parts of Russia vulnerable. Sochi is probably the safest place to be.”

Mostly he’s just worried about how his family and friends are fretting over all the worst-case scenarios.

“My parents, my grandmom and my girlfriend are all going. My mom in particular has had a hard time with all the chatter,” he says.

Assistant bobsled coach Army 1st Lt. Michael Kohn says he’s not sure what to think.

“We were kind of joking today that maybe the American media is blowing this up too much,” he says. “I don’t know. But as a coach, even if I was concerned, it wouldn’t be very smart of me to exude that around the athletes.”

With the final days counting down until opening ceremonies, he says everyone is trying to stay focused on their jobs and trust that security officials are doing theirs.

“Obviously the U.S Olympic Team and State Department feel OK, because we’re all still going. So, I’m just following their lead on it. For athletes in the village, I still feel pretty comfortable for where we’re going to be. It’s the outskirts — the train station, bus stops and other public places — that I feel bad for.”

Answers by RallyPoint

Join trending discussions in the military's #1 professional community. See what members like yourself have to say from across the DoD.

More In OFFduty

Start your day with a roundup of top defense news.

VA Home Loan
Rates

Search By:

Product Options:
Zip Code:

News for your in-box

Sign up now for free Military Times E-Reports. Choose from Money and Education. Subscribers: log in for premium e-newsletters.


This Week's Marine Corps Times

This Week's Marine Corps Times

Best federal contractors
The companies hiring the most veterans now

Subscribe for Print or Digital delivery today!

Classifieds
MilitaryTimes Green Trusted Classifieds Looking to buy, sell and connect on Military Times?
Browse expanded listings across hundreds of military installations.
Faces of valorHonoring those who fought and died in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.
hall of valorThe Hall of Valor is a searchable database of valor award citations collected by Doug Sterner, a Vietnam veteran and Military Times contributing editor, and by Military Times staff.
Woman who cried rape
(3 replies)
   Last Post: TJMAC77SP
        May 3, 2014 1:32 PM
   Last Post: garhkal
        May 1, 2014 5:03 PM
Cliven Bundy
(45 replies)
   Last Post: Chief_KO
        Apr 26, 2014 9:49 AM
Handbooks

All you need to know about your military benefits.

Benefits handbook

Guard & Reserve All you need to know about the Guard & Reserve.

guard and reserve handbook