Face of Defense: Airman’s Hobby Boosts Performance

KUNSAN AIR BASE, South Korea — 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.

Brazilian jiu-jitsu
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 to enlarge

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. 

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs) 

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