Milwaukee Airman part of All-Air Force soccer team
By Staff Sgt. Nathan Wallin, 128th Air Refueling Wing
/ Published November 07, 2010
Milwaukee -- The Air National Guard is providing Capt. Jason Park with two opportunities to soar.
A pilot for the past six years with the Milwaukee-based 128th Air Refueling Wing, Park is also a team captain - and one of only two Air National Guard members - with the 2010 All-Air Force Soccer Team, which recently competed in the Armed Forces Soccer Tournament, a five-game round-robin tournament against teams from other service branches. The Air Force team finished 2-2-1, defeating the Marine Corps and Army teams, and tying the Navy team. Park, a midfielder, scored the winning goal against Army in the game's closing moments - a header to the back of the net.
Park is in his third season with the All-Air Force team, but acknowledged he has to try out for the team each year. He first learned about the team in 2006 while attending pilot training at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas. In 2008 he was selected from 45 other athletes, and he has become highly regarded by his coaches. The team consists of 13 officers and five enlisted members. Park acknowledged that the conventional military rank structure does not apply on the team; everyone has equal responsibility and equal respect.
"But with subtlety, the higher ranking officers led the team by example," Park said.
Soccer has been a lifelong passion for the 30-year-old Park, a Fort Collins, Colo., native. He recalls playing soccer as early as age four, and played in the Dallas Cup - the nation's second-largest soccer tournament - in grades 4 through 7.
"That's where the core of my soccer ability and my knowledge of the game took shape," he said.
Park was captain of the Crystal Lake (Ill.) High School soccer team, played soccer at the University of Illinois in Champaign, and presently is in his second year as a reserve player for the Milwaukee Wave professional indoor soccer team.
"Training with professionals who know the game gives me the ability to keep my level of play high," he said. "My coaches with the Wave, Keith Tozer and Mark Litton, push us to the top of our game through strenuous workout and practice sessions. I simply would not be ready to compete for the Air Force Team without the benefit of training with The Wave."
Park rated the level of play in the Armed Forces Soccer Tournament as professional.
"Most guys had played at the Division One level in college," he explained.
Seven of eight members of the All-Air Force team who volunteered for the American Armed Forces Team were selected to play international soccer tournaments in South America this month. Park, who had training commitments with the 128 ARW, as well as college classes where he is working toward a master's degree in business administration, declined to volunteer.