With more than 65 competitors in this year’s tournament, Staff Sgt. Christopher Kervick, a cybersecurity specialist assigned to the Ohio National Guard’s 180th Fighter Wing, was the first and only Airman to compete.
“The ruleset for the tournament closely aligned with training I have been doing in my civilian life,” said Kervick. “It was also the first year the Air Force had been invited, so I wanted to step up to the challenge and represent the Air Force.”
Practicing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu training four to six times per week, Kervick felt that this training had him prepared for the tournament and jumped at the chance to compete.
“Initially it felt a little intimidating and there was definitely some confusion on the faces of others since this was the first year the Air Force was invited,” said Kervick. “There was no feeling of ‘who let the Air Force in?’ Everyone was very friendly and welcoming, even though we had to fight each other. Nonetheless, it wasn’t long before people recognized that I was the only Air Force member and I felt like I was being watched closely.”
Not only did Kervick stand out in his uniform, clearly representing the Air National Guard, he also stood out in the competition, bringing home the silver medal in the Middleweight Division.
“I think it takes a lot of discipline to prepare for anything like this, and to some degree, military training can instill that need for ‘excellence in all we do,’ and Staff Sgt. Kervick definitely has that,” said Lt. Col. Melanie Ferguson, 180FW Communications Flight commander. “This is demonstrated with his combatives training as well as the time and training he puts toward his Cyber Security career, in both his military and civilian jobs.”
Kervick competed in four six-minute preliminary rounds and one 10-minute semi-final round that encompassed grappling and wrestling skills, along with physical body strikes such as punching, kicking and open-hand hits to the face.
Because the tournament was held in Columbus on a weekend when the 180FW was conducting training in Toledo, Kervick’s biggest supporters were unable to attend in person, but that didn’t stop them from showing their support.
Throughout the day, members of the 180FW Communications Flight could be found squeezed into cubicles and offices, gathered around computer screens to watch their Wingman compete. And for the final championship round, the wing commander opened up the wing conference room so that unit members could watch the match on the big screens, cheering Kervick on from afar.
“One of my coworkers sent me a picture of my flight gathered around the computer,” said Kervick. “It felt great to know that I had the flight backing me and supporting me from home.”
“In the Communications Flight, we pride ourselves in supporting each other, and in lieu of having a contingent in Columbus, taking some time out to be able to cheer him on from afar just made sense,” said Ferguson. “I just wish he could have heard the cheers that would resonate throughout our work areas after each match he won!”
Kervick says he will absolutely compete in the tournament again next year and will continue so long as the tournament remains open to members of Air National Guard.
To his fellow Airmen, Kervick said, “If you’re thinking about entering the competition next year, I would definitely encourage you to do so. If you’re a wrestler or a jiu-jitsu person, it’s an absolute ideal weekend: representing your wing, getting to hit people and getting paid to do it!”