Amelia Airhurt: Offutt Airman is a fighter on wheels

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Rachel Hammes
  • 55th Wing Public Affairs

Jocelyn Smith can remember the moment she really learned to fly. She was in high school, and she knew what she wanted her plane to do to land perfectly. And, for the first time, she was able to make the plane do exactly what she wanted, landing smoothly and easily. The World War II veteran who served as her teacher turned to her and yelled, “Why don’t you land like that every time?”

Now a major in the U.S. Air Force, serving as an executive officers at the 55th Wing of Offutt Air Force Base, Neb., Smith has found new activities to master, this time in the form of roller derby.

“The first day I tripped and fell, and landed flat on my stomach – I was sore for two days,” said Smith, who plays the position of jammer, the point-scorer of the team. “But your body gets used to it. You learn how to take the impact and prep for it. You get a feeling of satisfaction out of doing something by instinct that you’ve been trying to make yourself do.”

Smith first became interested in roller derby while stationed at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., in 2009. While her schedule didn’t allow for her to regularly attend practice, she tried again after being stationed at Offutt in 2012.

“I did competitive sports in high school, and I was on the track team at the Air Force Academy when I was a cadet there,” said Smith, whose roller derby name is Amelia Airhurt. “I’ve been doing organized sports for a long time. The competition gets in your blood. It’s a very high adrenaline sport – it’s a whole-contact sport. The danger adds to the fun.”

Smith, who is playing her second season with the Omaha Rollergirls, said roller derby is a break from the structure of the Air Force, and the pressure of being an officer.

 “I’m not the team captain, I’m the new girl who just has to listen,” she said. “It’s competition, like the Air Force is competitive. You use some of the same concepts of hard work to achieve a goal. It’s nice because there are people who expect me to show up to practice. I work pretty long hours here, but I know they’ll notice if I don’t work out with them at night.”

Smith said it’s important to her to create ties to the local community in order to reaffirm her life in the military.

“We’re not in the Air Force for the Air Force’s sake,” she said. “We’re in the Air Force for the general public’s sake. Getting to meet and learn more about the general population is important. You have to get to know the town and the people you’re living with to feel like your job is a bigger deal. A well-rounded life includes things outside of your job.”

Jacie Daeges, whose derby name is Holmes Sweet Holmes, is on the Omaha Rollergirls’ All-Star Team with Smith.

“Roller derby is a good way to work out anxiety or stress,” she said. “You don’t realize it when it’s happening – you realize it when you look back and see you can deal with things better now. It helps with self-esteem too - you’re working with these women who think you’re awesome.”

Interacting with so many strong civilian women is another point of interest with Smith.

“I love hanging out with these women,” Smith said. “Women make up maybe 20 percent of the Air Force – I’ve always had maybe one or two female friends, but being on a team made up entirely of women is different. Roller derby is focused on bettering yourself and improving what you can do. It’s not about the standard things women generally find value in – it’s about strength and teamwork, as opposed to looking or acting a certain way.”

For more information about the Omaha Rollergirls, visit omaharollergirls.org.