DAVIS-MONTHAN AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. -- The Air Force requires all members to be 'fit to fight', but not everyone lifts weights, hit a punching bag or run on a treadmill. One Airman gives the phrase a different meaning. Staff Sgt. Hilary Middleton, 355th Operations Support Squadron aircrew flight equipment technician, skates with the local Tucson Roller Derby league. Middleton, also known as Judo Gnomi on the track, has been skating since she was two years old and jumped at this opportunity when she learned about the league from a former first sergeant. "I went to a couple bouts, and I was like 'I can do that!'" Middleton said. "So, I called up the recruiting people and was on skates the next Tuesday." To earn a place on the team, you have to show what you can do in skates, Middleton said. Applicants have to display their ability to stop, turn and compete.
Middleton plays on two teams, the Saddletramps and the Copper Queens. The Copper Queens is one of three home teams, and the Saddletramps is an all-star travel team. Both teams are part of the TRD. Middleton explained that she easily made it onto the Copper Queens team and it was only about three months until she joined the Saddletramps.
Not only is roller derby a hobby for Middleton, it also plays a key part in her Air Force career. Being in the league and on two different teams, Middleton has to skate several hours a week to maintain her teams and league's standards. "I have two different requirements for each team, and also our league has different requirements, Middleton said. "I always exceed those requirements. I usually skate at least 12 hours a week; sometimes, it can go up to 16 if there is a bout."
Not only does roller derby challenge her physically but it also helps with her mental fitness and resiliency.
"I love to hit people and not get in trouble for it," Middleton said. "It is a huge stress relief." During a bout, Middleton has to make quick decisions about her opponent's next move at the same time keeping up, blocking, and helping her team members break through the opponent's. To accomplish this goal, she is allowed to legally hit opposing players in order to keep them from scoring. Due to the nature of the game, Middleton had to get permission from her commander and go through a mandatory risk assessment. When she told her commander she gets to hits people, her commander requested a demonstration. "My commander said, 'Show me.'" Middleton said. "I had to actually show my commander how we hit each other. She wanted me to actually hit her and I got to hit her. It was awesome." Even with being part of the TRD, Middleton acknowledges that the Air Force mission has to come first. During the derby season she has had to deploy, but she says being part of the team while in the Air Force has made her a better Airman by empowering her to do more, both at work and at the roller derby.