Blind Special Forces Soldier to Speak at UT’s ROTC Commissioning

 

KNOXVILLE – Capt. Ivan Castro, the only blind officer serving in the U.S. Army Special Forces, will speak at the ROTC commissioning ceremony at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, on May 13.

The Army ROTC Rocky Top Battalion will commission 11 current ROTC cadets as second lieutenants in the U.S. Army during the ceremony, which will take place at 6 p.m. in the University Center ballroom. It is open to the public.

Castro was a platoon leader with the 82nd Airborne Division in September 2006 when he was injured. He had just relieved other paratroopers atop a house outside Youssifiyah, Iraq, after a night of fighting. A mortar round hit, killing two other paratroopers and sending shrapnel tearing through Castro’s body. It broke his arm and shoulder and shredded the left side of his face.

Castro awoke six weeks later at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. His right eye was gone and he was completely blind in his left eye.

After 17 months of recovery, Castro sought a permanent assignment in the Special Operations Command, the small, elite units that drop behind enemy lines on combat missions. He was placed with the 7th Special Forces Group where he is now an executive officer.

He isn’t involved in active combat, but rather has management duties. He also helps train the unit in Spanish, an important skill since they regularly deploy to train South American troops.

Castro remains an avid athlete and has participated in several long distance road races. He has participated, with a guide, in the Army Ten-Miler and the Marine Corps Marathon. In 2008, he participated in the Bataan Memorial Death March Marathon in New Mexico, the Boston Marathon and the U.S. Air Force Marathon. In June 2009, Castro participated in the Midnight Boogie 50-mile ultramarathon.

Castro will be on campus the morning of May 13 and is available to meet with people. He also invites the public to join him and his guide on their morning run. For information about these opportunities, contact Lt. Col. Dave Leach at dleach1@utk.edu or Maj. John Wells at jwells12@utk.edu.

C O N T A C T :

Amy Blakely (865-974-5034, amy.blakely@tennessee.edu)

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