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Airman takes 'Fit to Fight' to a new level

  • Published
  • By Melissa Porter
  • 325th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
For one Tyndall Air Force Base Airman, "Fit to Fight" is more than just an Air Force fitness motto, it's the motto for her life.

Senior Airman Crystal Wortman, 325th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron F-15 crew chief, is a boxer on the All-Air Force Boxing team and has made training and competitions a way of life since joining the team in January.

"I'm striving for as much experience as possible," said the 5 feet 2 inches tall, 138-pound amateur boxer. "I really try to fit everything I can in - work, running, strength training, boxing training and tournaments. I don't sleep much."

Her ambitious schedule has paid off. According to USA Boxing statistics, Airman Wortman ranks fifth in the nation for the amateur women's light welterweight class.

Her boxing journey started in 2004, a few years before she enlisted in the Air Force.

"I was overweight and was looking for a way to lose weight," said Airman Wortman. "The gym I worked out at in Oklahoma had kick-boxing, martial arts and boxing."

Once she got fit, her coaches saw potential and encouraged her to take up boxing for more than fitness. She did - eventually competing in three local boxing tournaments and one national competition. However, after joining the Air Force, keeping up with the rigorous training and competitions became difficult, so Airman Wortman hung up her boxing gloves for a while.

It wasn't until arriving at Tyndall two years ago that she found out about the All-Air Force Boxing team. After much prodding from co-workers and her supervisor, she signed up for the training camp in San Antonio.

The three-week camp, which includes physical and mental conditioning, boxing skill enhancement and concludes with a "box off" contest, uncovers the best Air Force boxers for national-level competition, explained Tech. Sgt. Edward Rivas, All-Air Force Boxing Team coach.

"Some elite boxers would have a hard time with the pace of the camp," Sergeant Rivas said. "Airman Wortman was like the Energizer Bunny - she just didn't stop going."

That energy served her well; out of 26 prospective contenders, Airman Wortman was one of eight boxers selected for the team.

"She's young in her boxing career," said Sergeant Rivas, who continues to coach Airman Wortman via phone calls and emails. "But what she has, is a lot of determination. That, added with what she already knows about boxing, makes her hard to beat."

Airman Wortman has a rigorous training program. She trains four hours each day, to include running four to five miles, strength training and boxing training where she spars against other amateurs at a local gym in Panama City.

Despite her drive and discipline, she has a few things working against her. Limited boxing training facilities in Panama City, rare local competitions and a small female-boxer pool provide huge obstacles for Airman Wortman who's trying to accumulate enough points for nationals.

"As a female, you might go five months and not have a fight at all," said Wortman. "Since January, I've registered for five competitions and only fought in three."

Her biggest challenge, according to Airman Wortman, is not having her coach present. A lack of funds makes it impossible for Coach Rivas to train with her or join her at competitions year round.

"It's a disadvantage because most competitors have a full-time coach with them," said Airman Wortman. "They have that somebody who makes you accountable, who is always pushing you, always there for you."

Since Coach Rivas cannot be here, Airman Wortman has relied on a surrogate coach, Robert Dickerson, a mixed martial artist and kick-boxing coach from the local gym she trains at.

"Her form is better than anybody's in the gym," said Mr. Dickerson of his only female trainee. "Her work ethic is as hard, if not harder than anyone who trains here."

According to Airman Wortman that work ethic, self discipline and self motivation are a huge driving force behind her national ranking, but she credits others for her success.

"I have some pretty significant people in my life who have helped me get where I am," said Airman Wortman.

Aside from the unwavering support of Coach Rivas, Airman Wortman also has the support of her co-workers, supervisor and commander who allow her the opportunity to go to competitions even if it takes her out of the workplace at times.

"Her unit is very supportive of her," said Coach Rivas. "They want to see her do well and that is awesome."

Next up for the boxing athlete is the Platinum Gloves Tournament July 3 through 6 in Orlando, and then she plans to compete in the Women's National Golden Gloves July 8 through12 in Hollywood, Fla.

Airman Wortman hopes to represent the Air Force in as many competitions as possible this year and plans try out for the All-Air Force team again next season.

"My ultimate goal is to win the nationals next year," said Airman Wortman. "I owe it to myself because I should have won this year, and I owe it to my coach because he really believes in me."

For information about the All-Air Force Boxing team, go to