Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Representing Air Force and country through martial arts

by Air Force Staff Sgt. Robert Barnett
JBER Public Affairs

3/18/2014 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska  -- Adrenaline and heat from exertion caused sweat glands to build up moisture, forming drops of the liquid on Quinton Beach's forehead, dripping around his eyes as he stared at his opponent, Micah Foreman, 17, who executed a roundhouse kick aimed for Beach's chest.

A sharp cracking sound echoed through the room as Beach, 30, fired a cut kick and caught his opponent in the stomach before the roundhouse kick made contact.

When his foot touched the floor, Beach followed the move with an outside axe kick to Foreman's upper body, a second crack splitting the sound waves in the dojo, followed only by the thud of Foreman dropping to the mat.

Beach quickly helped his fellow martial arts practitioner up, and they carefully analyzed what had transpired as they brushed off their protective gear, made of condensed foam that makes a cracking sound on impact.

It was an average sparring match in the Taekwondo Elite USA class in Anchorage, filled with award-winning martial artists.

Tech. Sgt. Quinton Beach, a 3rd Munitions Squadron munitions technician on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, is a black belt.

The martial artist earned a third-degree black belt in tang soo do and first-degree black in taekwondo. He is a member of the United States Air Force Olympic Taekwondo team, a part of Armed Forces Sports, a program funded through non-appropriated funds such as Army and Air Force Exchange Service dividends.

"The AFS Program is designed to provide opportunities for Air Force personnel to train toward and participate in Armed Forces, National, Pan American, Conseil International du Sport Militaire and World Championships to include the Olympics," said Stephen Brown, chief of AFS out of Joint Base San Antonio, Texas.

Program participants enhance recruiting and retention efforts of the Air Force, Brown said.

Teams and team members often conduct sports clinics for both our military and civilian youth sports participants, he said.

Beach began practicing martial arts roughly 21 years ago with tang soo do, hapkido and taekwondo. The martial artist has since been in nearly 300 tournaments. He has been married for 12 years and has four children.

"I am extremely overjoyed by all of my husband's accomplishments," said Vernita Beach. "Balancing family, career, training, teaching and obtaining a master's degree is no easy task. Yet, he does all of that and so much more. He gives a little extra push and accomplishes the extraordinary. After almost 13 years of marriage he never ceases to amaze me."

Beach also has his unit's support.

"I've been blessed to have the Air Force support my competitions," the native of Albany, Ga., said. "It's a great feeling to have your unit, from the top down, support those things. Everybody's always asking when my next competition is, or when I'm training and how they can help out."

In 2006, Beach was introduced to the World Taekwondo Federation. In 2007, he was invited to try out for the Olympic team. Although they don't actually compete in the Olympics, they train towards it and compete nationally and internationally in various competitions.

He has had to try out for the team every year.

"It's definitely motivating, especially when I have to go to the training camp," he said.

After several weeks of training, select few chosen and the rest go home. The chosen remain for a few extra weeks of advanced training, designed to prepare them for international competitions. They travel to different countries as they represent their respective branches of service and compete in their respective categories.

Currently, taekwondo, judo, wrestling and boxing are the only AFS that are combative, according to the AFS website.

"It's definitely motivating and empowering; you take pride knowing that you get to represent your service," Beach said. "There are people out there who want to train, who are just as good as you are, but who aren't able to make it there. It gives me a sense of 'I've got to get this done;' there are people counting on me; there are people picking up my slack while I'm gone. I've got to do the best I can, I've got to represent, to set the stage, to let everyone know that we've got a competitive force."

For Beach, representing the Air Force means living by integrity first, service before self, and excellence in all we do.

"When other countries see us, they don't know individual names; they just see 'USA' on our uniforms," he said. "It turns heads; it makes people want to know who we are. Being that ambassador is critical. They see the proper military image."

But it goes beyond just representing the Air Force, the black belt said.

"When you win the competition, you see the United States flag being raised above the others, and you hear our anthem playing, it touches you," he said. "You feel patriotic; it's electrifying."

"3rd MUNS has always espoused a culture of the outstanding," said Air Force Maj. Joshua Trebon, 3rd MUNS maintenance operations officer and native of Wadena, Iowa. "Beach is an example of how that can be applied through off-duty sports and represent and reflect upon the culture of the squadron. He's representing us internationally; in my opinion it's worth it."

Beach has won Air Force Male Athlete of the Year three times at the base level; once as a senior airman at Misawa Air Base, Japan; and twice as a staff sergeant at Diego Garcia and Aviano Air Base, Italy; and once since he's been stationed at JBER. He competed in the Alaska President's Cup in February, and will be competing in the Alaska State Championship in March, which determines who will continue on to U.S. National, then National Team Trials. He is also one of the Alaska State Athletic Representatives for Taekwondo.

Outside of competitions, practicing martial arts is a lifestyle of improving fitness and overall health and well-being, he said.

"It's all about wanting to pull the best out of you," the technical sergeant said. "Being a martial arts practitioner allows you to gain confidence in your abilities. As you work out and train, you're going to become smarter and stronger; your aerobic capacity, strength, endurance, and focus will improve. It changes the way you carry yourself as a child or as an adult. You're going to look at life and circumstances from a different perspective."

It benefits everyone, he said.

"It keeps you fit to fight, fit to live," the black belt said. "Excellence in all we do -- you look passed just meeting the minimum. You want to crush it, to far exceed it. As a martial artist, you want the triple digits on your Air Force fitness test. Once you get there, you want to see how much better you can do. You want to get that runtime down a few more seconds passed the maximum score, just for your own personal gain. We train to beat our previous best; we love it."

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