Skilled military soccer players are Air Force officers

Air Force Capt. Angela Karamanos, left, goes up against a Cameroon player at Union Stadium in Spokane, Wash., July 13. Photo by EJ Hersom

Two Air Force captains have much in common. Both fly in F-15 fighter jets; both are on the U.S. Armed Forces Women’s Soccer Team; and both said what attracted them to the Air Force and soccer the most is teamwork and camaraderie.

The team competed in the 13th World Military Women’s Football Championship, which ran from July 11-22 in Spokane, Washington. The event was hosted by nearby Fairchild Air Force Base.

The U.S. Armed Forces Women’s Soccer Team poses for a photo after beating team Belgium 8-0 at Union Stadium in Spokane, WA, July 11.

Air Force Capt. Jen Gillette

Air Force Capt. Jen Gillette, #21 defender, is an F-15 pilot assigned to Seymour Air Force Base, North Carolina’s 333rd Fighter Squadron.

Gillette said part of the attraction of a military career was being exposed to military life growing up. Her father served in the Coast Guard for 30 years, and the family moved around a lot.

Initially, Gillette had the idea of being a veterinarian because she likes animals. Then, she changed her mind and decided on pre-med. But that didn’t sound as interesting and adventurous as going really fast in a fighter jet, she said.

The fighter pilot is sure she made the right choice and has decided to make it a career.

In 2020, she flew her F-15 over the skies of Iraq and Syria in support of U.S. Central Command missions.

Gillette graduated from Florida Tech and joined the Air Force in 2014, earning her wings in 2016.

Air Force Capt. Jen Gillette, left, and Air Force Capt. Angela Karamanos pose for a photo at Union Stadium in Spokane, WA, July 10.

Air Force Capt. Angela Karamanos

Air Force Capt. Angela Kara-manos, #24 midfielder, is an F-15 weapons systems officer, who sits in the back seat of an F-15 and fires weapons and sometimes helps navigate when needed.

She is assigned to Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho’s 389th Thunderbolts Fighter Squadron.

After graduating from the U.S. Air Force Academy, Karamanos was commissioned in 2018 and earned her wings in 2020.

Karamanos said she and her brother grew up loving sports, but she gravitated to soccer as she found it interesting and exciting.

She noted that teamwork and camaraderie in the Air Force extends not just to the pilots and other officers, but also to enlisted personnel, such as the mechanics. It’s like a big family, she added.

Karamanos’ Air Force service is until 2026. She isn’t sure if she’ll stay in and currently doesn’t have plans for a career outside the Air Force. She said she still has a few years left to think about it and wants to make the decision that is best for her.

About the competition

The U.S. team competed against teams from Belgium, Cameroon, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Mali, Netherlands and South Korea.

Each year, the International Military Sports Council hosts World Military Championships in 26 sports on international and regional levels. The World Military Women’s Football Championship is one of them.