SPARTANBURG, S.C. – Success as a U.S. Army officer requires physical and mental toughness, says Lt. Col. Bryan Dunker, professor of military science at Wofford College.
It takes the same to be a successful triathlete, says Dunker, who recently placed second in the Master’s Division of the 2019 Armed Forces Triathlon Championship in Point Mugu, California, earning him one of six coveted spots on the Team USA Triathlon Team that will compete Oct. 16 through 28 at the Conseil International du Sport Militaire (CISM) World Military Games in Wuhan, China.
CISM is held every four years with the top military athletes from 136 counties competing on the world stage; it is the second-largest sporting event in the world behind the Olympics. The ultimate goal of CISM is to contribute to world peace by uniting armed forces through sports, operating under the motto “Friendship through Sport.”
The U.S. Armed Forces sends the top military athletes in 17 sports to compete in the World Games, also called the Peace Games. In addition to Dunker, the Army will be represented by two other men and two women on Team USA’s six-man, six-woman contingent.
“I am immensely excited,” says Dunker, who has competed in triathlons and running competitions around the country and the world. “It has taken over 10 years – with success and failure – to build the physical and mental capacity to compete at the world stage. I’m mostly grateful for my family’s support on this journey. My wife already sacrifices a lot as an Army spouse, and the World Championships are an additional trip when I’m away from home.”
Dunker grew up as a swimmer and competed on the NCAA Division I swim team at Lehigh University. After graduating in 2001, he was commissioned as an Army officer, where he found himself running a lot for Army physical training (PT). “Racing in triathlons was a natural progression, and the multisport arena sparked my interest in 2008.”
A triathlon consists of three events: swim, bike, and run. For the World Military Games, triathletes will compete in the Olympic-distance event which entails a 1.5 km swim, 40 km bike, and 10 km run.
In the Army, Dunker spends every morning in PT workouts. “Racing in triathlons helps me avoid complacency after 18 years in the Army. I set goals throughout the year to challenge myself in different races. It keeps PT exciting, and the race calendar helps me stay accountable during workouts.
“Racing in triathlons and service in the U.S. military truly complement each other,” he adds. “There are not many careers, outside of professional athletics, where you are expected and paid to maintain a high level of fitness.”
To prepare for the World Games, Dunker is working with Roy Foley, a coach with AeroPro Coaching and Performance Services. “A key factor in my growth as an endurance athlete is my coach,” he says. “Roy provides a customized training plan on a weekly basis, and his expertise gets results. Since we conduct PT with the cadets, I regularly get creative to fit in my own workouts before or after PT and often during lunch. I strive hard to get my training completed during the day so I can spend time with my family in the evenings.”
Dunker hopes the cadets in the Army ROTC program at Wofford learn one thing from his training as a triathlete – “There’s no secret to success. No matter what they pursue, it takes hard work and pounding the rock of consistency every day. There are no shortcuts to achieving success.”
He says his triathlon racing may have sparked some of the cadets’ interest in endurance racing. “We have several collegiate athletes in Army ROTC – which includes students from Wofford, the University of South Carolina Upstate and Converse College – and I think it has opened their eyes to continue competing after college.”