JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas (AFNS) —
The Air Force recently announced a Winter Olympian and nationally ranked jiu-jitsu champion as the 2021 Male and Female Athletes of the Year: Airman 1st Class Kelly Curtis and Sgt. Justin Southijack, respectively.
Female Athlete of the Year
“I am honored to have been selected as the Air Force Female Athlete of the Year,” said Curtis, a knowledge management technician with the 31st Air Force Communications Squadron. Aviano Air Base, Italy. “I joined a list of incredible women and I am honored to be in such good company.”
“Her list of accolades during the awards period included being ranked the best military and Air Force skeleton athlete in the world and the best military athlete Olympic hopeful for the 2022 Winter Games”, said Major Aaron Tissot, head of DAF Fitness and Sports with the Air Force Service Center.
An “expert in her trade,” Curtis was also requested by name to conduct track testing and research and development at the Beijing venue ahead of the Olympics, according to her nomination package.
Prior to the Olympics, Curtis put in more than 500 hours of training, competed in 12 international events averaging 11th place among his peers around the world, and represented the Air Force World Class Athlete Program, or WCAP, at the skeleton team trials in Lake Placid, New York, earning a third team ranking for Team USA.
Curtis got what many see as a late start in the Air Force at age 31, after learning he could serve his country and still play a sport he loves.
“I first became aware of the opportunity to merge the two when I joined USA Bobsled and Skeleton and saw the number of sliders serving on active duty in the military,” said Curtis. “Once I got good enough to compete for our national team, I started my application to enlist in the Air Force and join WCAP.”
As the first WCAP Airman to enter basic military training, she spearheaded an elite athlete recruitment initiative that sparked the interest of more than 20 elite athletes, signaled her nomination, and Curtis shone as an Air Force ambassador and WCAP athlete. in world competitions.
“I feel privileged every time I compete for the country and act as an ambassador for not only Team USA, but also the US Air Force. I still have a lot to learn and I am looking forward to learning from my teammates. wing,” Curtis said.
Curtis attributes his success and selection as Athlete of the Year to his strong support network.
“My town is made up of the Air Force World Class Athlete Program, the 31st CS, teammates and coaches at USA Bobsled and Skeleton, and the friends and family who have supported me in this effort over eight years,” he said. “I am also fortunate to have a husband, Jeff Milliron, who has also agreed to join me in this unexpected chapter of our lives. His support has been unwavering and his strength and conditioning programming has proven worthy enough for this title.”
Male athlete of the year
Winning the title of Air Force Male Athlete of the Year “is truly surreal” for Sgt. Justin Southichack, production supervisor for the 649th Munitions Squadron in hill air force baseUtah.
“I am very confident that the Air Force has numerous athletes who are truly inspiring and motivating in their craft,” Southichack said, “and I am grateful for my leadership in nominating me and honored to represent the best Air Force in the world. ”
He also thanked his coach, Eduardo Mori, and his training partner, Amy Campo, saying, “I wouldn’t have gotten to where I am if it wasn’t for them…those two have really pushed me to excel in the sport. of Jiu-Jitsu.”
During the award period, Southichack’s record in numerous competitions helped him outperform other nominated male athletes, Tissot said.
Southichack placed first in his eight-competitor division at the 2021 Winter Impact Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, or BJJ, Open Gi tournament in Salt Lake City; 1st of 12 in the No-Gi Division of the North American Grappling Association Vegas Grappling Championship in Las Vegas; the first of 32 fighters in his weight class at the International BJJ Federation BJJ No-Gi World Championships in Dallas; and first place out of 334 rivals in his weight class at IBJJF Masters I Blue Belt, earning a top six ranking in his division for calendar year 2021.
“Throughout my Air Force career, athletics have played a vital role in my personal well-being and endurancesaid Southichack, who has participated in many intramural sports as well as boxing, bodybuilding and powerlifting.
In addition to being a munitions trooper, Southichack has been a physical training leader, unit fitness program manager, and part of a unit fitness cell at each duty station assigned to him.
Even with his sports background, he said it wasn’t until 2019 that he found purpose within the sport when Jiu-Jitsu found it as a way to bond with his young son and teach him self-defense.
The martial art of Jiu-Jitsu, a sport that is gaining popularity in recent years, is a discipline “without prejudice of gender, age, size or physical ability that focuses on bringing the opponent to the ground to neutralize any force or size. advantage that the adversary can impose,” Southichack said.
“It has also been shown to help people physically, mentally, spiritually, socially and psychologically throughout life,” he said, “with the culture creating a sense of acceptance and camaraderie.”
Department of the Air Force sports and fitness programs, such as the Athlete of the Year Program, emphasize the importance of mission success through sustained dedication and hard work, and the importance of maintaining an active lifestyle and healthy, Tissot said.
“Our sports and fitness programs are designed to allow Airmen and guardians to achieve their athletic goals, stay resilient personally and professionally, and ultimately that increases our mission readiness,” Tissot said.
When it comes to the importance of athletics in building better, stronger and more resilient Airmen, Curtis said, “I’ve learned to build a process that I love and then do my best to let that process work. Not one big training day, but the day-to-day drudgery of working toward an athletic goal that builds resilience.
“I can’t speak for all Airmen, but I know I feel better after I get some endorphins pumping through my body,” he said.
Throughout his life, Southichack said athletics has helped ensure he’s not complacent.
“I’ve always pushed for the status quo and made sure I was ‘fit to fight,’” Southichack said. “As supervisors, we must lead from the front and by example. I continually preach to my Airmen that we should never settle for mediocrity but pursue excellence.”