WENDELL, N.C. — It was a crystal-clear morning on Oct. 9, 2010 as U.S. 101st Airborne Infantry Division Recon Scout Squad Leader J.D. Williams was on a recon mission in the mountains of Afghanistan. As J.D. maneuvered up a trail, he suddenly came upon six Taliban fighters—he was ambushed. Before he could raise his rifle to engage, an I.E.D. exploded underneath him. He quickly realized his legs and right arm were gone.
Growing up in the small rural town of Harrison, Mont., J.D. gravitated toward outdoor adventure activities and knew he wanted to serve his country. His passion for outdoor survival led him to join the military right out of high school. In 2007, J.D. got his first taste of combat action in Iraq and safely returned home after the 18-month deployment. In 2010, he redeployed, leaving behind his wife and six-month-old daughter. While his life changed forever on that early October morning, J.D. has not let his circumstances deter him from living a life full of adventure. An avid bowhunter, J.D. retaught himself how to shoot with a mouth tab and quickly realized the positive effects being outside had on his rehab.
“Going on hunts and other outdoor trips challenged me to adapt and overcome; there are no shortcuts whether you are handicapped or not,” said J.D. “I saw how beneficial it was for my own wellbeing, and I realized if there were other warriors with me, we could work together to meet our goals. This led to me creating Mohawk Outdoors.”
Mohawk Outdoors takes combat veterans on outdoor adventures that build confidence, comradery and lifelong memories. Since its inception, Mohawk has led more than 100 combat veterans on fishing, hunting and shooting trips. The locations for the excursions are remote, a challenge in itself for the adventurers.
“I rely on wheelchairs, and the terrain on these trips tears them up,” says J.D. “I always thought having a UTV would be a game changer for not only myself, but the other warriors as well.”
After learning about J.D. and Mohawk, KIOTI, with the help of Life Essentials, decided to get involved. Deciding KIOTI’s K9 2440 was the perfect vehicle to help the vets get back to the dirt, they made modifications to optimize J.D.’s experience while running the outdoor programs and working on his own 80-acre farm. Remote-controlled lifts were added to assist veterans getting in and out of the vehicle and in moving from side to side in the cabin, as well as to load and unload wheelchairs and supplies into the bed. Hand controls were added to the left side of the driver’s seat along with a steering wheel adaption for use with a prosthetic. Remote controls direct the winch and dump bed, and can be used outside of the UTV.
"There was a lot of planning, work and anticipation that went into this project,” said U.S. Army Sergeant Bryan Falkner, product support lead for KIOTI. “Seeing J.D.’s face when we revealed the UTV was so humbling, and we are excited to see him put it to good use on his next trip.”
“The KIOTI UTV is an amazing gift, and I cannot wait to share it with our warriors,” says J.D. “We have huge plans this year, and the K9 will help us get them places they have never been.”
Click here to see the UTV reveal in a short film on Youtube, or watch it bellow.