Aviators take the field

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Jessica Haynie
  • 14th Flying Training Wing
COLUMBUS AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. – Over 40 female military service members, representing all branches of the Armed Forces, travelled to Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington, for a chance to be a part of the 21-person team representing the United States at the 2022 International Military Sports Council (CISM) Women’s Soccer World Cup held in Meade, Washington.

U.S Air Force Lt. Col. Marci Walton, 14th Flying Training Wing instructor pilot and wing chief of safety, has been the assistant coach for the U.S. Armed Forced Women’s Soccer team throughout the tournament.

"There is a lot you can learn from playing sports," said Walton. "[These ladies] have each learned to lead, follow, and trust their fellow teammates."

Within the team, there are six pilots and one Aircrew member each representing the USAF.

"I think being a good teammate transfers over from the soccer field and that’s what I have had my entire life," said 1st Lt. Jennifer Hiddink, C-17 Globemaster III pilot. "I think I have already brought that to my squadron but even more so now. Being here around all these strong women, it is cool to see us all supporting each other.

CISM was founded on the 18th of February, 1948, and is one of the largest multidisciplinary organizations in the world. Players from various career fields and branches come together to achieve a common goal.

“Growing up playing soccer I learned the value and structure of teamwork," said U.S. Air Force Capt. Kyele Bridel, T-6 Texan II instructor pilot. "I have brought those values and skills to my squadron to the best of my ability. I think being here further instills those values in terms of having each other’s best interest towards a common goal in terms of success."

The ultimate goal of CISM is to contribute to world peace by uniting armed forces through sports. The motto under which they operate is "Friendship through Sport".

"There were some difficulties due to being a flyer," said U.S. Air Force Capt. Elizabeth Denton, KC-135 Stratotanker pilot. "My squadron was on six-month deployment rotations and I needed my squadron commander’s approval in order to be released. Luckily, my command team was very supportive. It helped that the games were in the U.S. this year and at my current duty station.”

Between deployments, home life, training and maintaining certifications, some competitors have noted that even participating in the event had been “challenging”.

"There is a lot of training we have to do," said U.S. Air Force Capt. Angela Karamanos, F-15 Eagle Weapons Systems officer. "I have not been able to play in the past because of the training pipeline. The timing just worked out this year where I was not in any official upgrade."

Student pilots must go through Undergraduate Pilot Training before they earn their aeronautical rating. After which, they will continue with training in their respective aircraft at their next duty assignment.

"I had to get all my required currencies covered before leaving," said Capt. Marisa Gratten, E-3 Sentry pilot. "We have to have a certain number of flights per month and since I knew I could potentially be gone for a month, I had to get those knocked out.”

CISM brings diverse cultures and ethnic backgrounds together, forming bonds through sports and competition.

U.S. Air Force Capt. Jennifer Gillette, 333rd Fighter Squadron, F-15E Strike Eagle pilot, has played with the team two times before, making this her third time representing team USA.

“The best part of the journey, this time and every time, is getting to be a part of something so great with so many awesome women,” said Gillette. “The fighter community is male dominated, like you read about. It is great to connect with and be a part of a team with so many strong, independent, and different, but equally awesome women.”

Team USA battled Belgium on July 11, obtaining their first win with a victory of 10-0, July 11, 2022.

"We have never had a group of ladies like this before," said U.S. Air Force Col. Derrick Weyand, U.S. Armed Forces Women’s head soccer coach. "I am excited because this team is stronger, better, and faster than any team we have had in the past."

Team USA fell short against Cameroon, with 1-2 being the final score, on July 14, but has since made a comeback against Germany with a final score of 2-1, on July 15.

To watch these women represent the U.S. Armed Forces, please use the following link:


USA Schedule

19 July @ 3:30pm PST vs Ireland

22 July - TBD based off pool play