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Face of Defense: Airman's Hobby Boosts Performance

By Air Force Staff Sgt. Amanda Savannah
8th Fighter Wing

KUNSAN AIR BASE, South Korea, Sept. 13, 2010 – An 8th Security Forces Squadron airman here has found an off-duty activity that helps him develop his leadership skills while achieving an ultimate personal goal.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Air Force Staff Sgt. Duriel Howard, left, evaluates Air Force Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Tomkiewicz on his searching and handcuffing technique. Off duty, the two airmen participate together in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Amanda Savannah
  

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Air Force Staff Sgt. Duriel Howard, the squadron’s standardization and evaluations noncommissioned officer, is proving he is as much an asset to his Brazilian jiu-jitsu group as he is to the squadron.

Howard is responsible for certifying every airman in the squadron on their duty tasks, whether they’re patrolmen, desk sergeants, entry controllers or others. A Brazilian jiu-jitsu teammate and fellow squadron member said this means Howard must be a highly trained and valued member of the squadron.

"In order to be a stan-eval NCO, you have to be the tip of the spear, and he is," said Air Force Staff Sgt. Ryan Troester, a military working dog handler.

After only three months on the Brazilian jiu-jitsu team, the 32-year-old Austin, Texas, native has proven his dedication isn't limited to his duty performance. Howard recently claimed two gold medals at the fifth annual De La Riva Brazilian Jiu-jitsu Cup in South Korea’s capital of Seoul, one in his weight class and the other for the absolute division, involving all the weight classes combined.

"It felt good to win the medals," Howard said. "But it's all thanks to my group. I absolutely couldn't have done this myself. I had no experience, but the entire team helped me achieve this."

Being a part of the group and winning the medals also will help the 10-year Air Force veteran reach his ultimate goal: to be an Ultimate Fighting Championship fighter.

"To be a UFC fighter, I need to learn martial arts, so this is one step to doing that," said Howard, a two-stripe white belt martial artist.

Although he's achieved so much so quickly, he acknowledged, he still has a way to go. Martial arts experience takes a person through five belt colors as they progress - white to blue to purple to brown to black. Howard said he plans to continue practicing and reaching for his goal long after he leaves here in six months. But in the meantime, in addition to aiming for a personal goal, Howard said, he is developing himself as an airman and a security forces member, and also is remaining fit to fight.

"What I am learning I can apply at work," Howard said. "If I'm in a bad situation, I can apply what I've learned and take someone down with only as much force as necessary."

Brazilian jiu-jitsu is designed so that even the weakest person can have the same chances in a fight, said Troester, a purple-belt martial artist who started the Brazilian jiu-jitsu group here.

"Using leverage and technique, even the weakest person can win," he said. "It may not always be the biggest and strongest person."

Troester, a martial artist for more than two years, said he started the local group to help his fellow security forces airmen develop their skills and because of the intensity of the workout.

"This training helps us for our job - the security forces career field has the most possibility for being in an altercation, so it gives us good self-defense to fall back on," he said. "But it's also a great workout.” Brazilian jiu-jitsu is the only physical training he does, he added, and he scored a 95 on his last fitness test.

Howard agreed the hobby provides significant value.

"I'd like to see more people join our group, because it's a great workout and a great way to relieve stress," he said.

The group practices off base with a local gym's team. When they aren't hard at work, Howard said, they enjoy spending time hanging out with the members of the gym's team.

"[It] gets me away from my daily grind and keeps me fit and focused," he said. "The group works together and practices so we all get better."

Tomkiewicz, a one-stripe white belt martial artist, joked that he wasn't sure about Howard needing the practice.

"He's a great member of the team - a hard worker and a team player. … But he squashes me," he said.

 

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