EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. --
Elite military soccer players from around the globe competed in Wuhan, China, to determine the best of the best at the 2019 CISM Military World Games.
Air Force Lt. Col. Marci Walton, the team captain, led the team of female service members from the Air Force, Army, Navy and Marine Corps against football teams from Germany, Korea and China.
“Soccer is the world’s sport and women’s soccer is pretty big right now – specifically with U.S. winning the World Cup,” Walton said. “We all have a competitive edge and so working with this team in this environment, that attitude is contagious.”
The team included a representative from the 412th Test Wing at Edwards Air Force Base, California. 2nd Lt. Morgan Mavroudis, 412th Security Forces Squadron, said she learned about the Military World Games from her soccer coach at the US Air Force Academy in Colorado.
“After graduation, I kept tabs on the current team through their social media pages. They released a timeline for the CISM World Military Games; I submitted an “athletic resume” that detailed my athletic achievements and from there I was selected to attend tryouts in San Antonio,” she said. “The tryout was a tough 10 days of fitness tests, technical drills and full field scrimmages. After the tryout, the coaches notified 21 players that we had made the CISM team.”
Despite their fierce drives on the field and intense competitive spirit, the women’s team fell short against their competition and were eliminated during the preliminary rounds.
“I think only getting to train together for 10 days during our camp hindered our performance,” Walton said. “While we had a lot of support from supervisors and commanders, it’s always been a challenge because of the real-world mission. I think getting the word out about the program and the value of what we’re doing out here representing the United States is probably what we need help with the most.”
Although the team’s run was cut short, the experience still held memorable moments for the players. One memorable moment for Mavroudis actually came during meal time, she said.
“We sat in the same building, eating the same food as 10,000 athletes from 109 different countries. All of us were there, representing our country in a sport we have been diligently practicing,” Mavroudis said. “I spent most of my mealtime looking around at all the other countries thinking, ‘How cool is this? This is real life!’”
The Conseil International du Sports Militaire, or CISM competition, is the culmination of each nation’s military sports and fitness programs. Service members compete at elite levels to advance to the global stage where they can seek victories in international competitions. This year’s CISM games features military athletes from around the world from 109 nations with about 10,000 participants.
Mavroudis said she felt proud to represent the US on a world-stage.
“Competing on the world stage was unlike any experience I’ve had in my soccer career. I have been a part of high school and college soccer teams and although I take pride in representing those organizations and schools; having “USA” on my chest was an incredibly proud moment,” she said. “We weren’t just representing the branch of military that we served, we were a team of 21 women representing an entire nation. It was equally as rewarding to complete against other women from other countries that also answered their nation’s call of military service.”
(Editor's Note: Giancarlo Casem, 412th Test Wing Public Affairs, contributed to this report)