Lt. Cmdr. Trisha Kelly, a surface warfare officer who serves as Military Sealift Command Pacific’s Reserve Program Director, took her nautical skills to Brest, France, where she served as Chief of the Mission, and as a surprise team mate, for the U.S. Armed Forces Sailing team, at the 53rd Conseil International du Sport Militaire (CISM) World Military Sailing Championship.
According to Kelly, her selection as the team’s Chief came from years of experience as a competitive sailor. As a child and adolescent, she sailed off the coast of Long Island where she was raised. Later, she sailed as a Midshipman at the United States Naval Academy and then with the Armed Forces sailing team, where she competed in three world championships.
“This was a natural progression for me,” said Kelly. “I was really looking forward to stepping into a leadership role and overseeing the team members, and helping them excel as a team.”
As Chief, Kelly’s duties included taking charge of all aspects of the team including team meetings, events, schedules and even coordinating uniforms for events. In addition, she was the “face” of the team; representing the team at conferences and special events.
“There is so much more to being on a sailing team than just going out on the boat,” remarked Kelly. “When I was sailing, I didn’t always see the big picture, so this experience has really been an eye-opener for me. I think it has made me more well-rounded as a sailor, and it has made me appreciate the sport even more.”
Team USA was comprised of five, co-ed members, all officers, who serve throughout the Navy. Two members were veteran sailors with three newcomers to the U.S. Armed Forces Sports program. The team came together from sailing events around the world, with the competition in France, the first time they had sailed together as a team. This meant a several days learning curve, where the sailors got to know each other and each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and honing their techniques on the boat.
The Navy teaches flexibility, even adopting the unofficial motto, “Sempra Gumby: Always Flexible.” In France, Kelly found herself taking on that motto, as her job of Chief, turned to teammate, as she found herself as part of the crew, on the boat!
“Due to unfortunate health concerns the team captain had to drop out, so I stepped in!” explained Kelly. “I love sailing, so on the boat is where I would rather be. I really wanted to give the younger people a chance, and was happy to step back into a management job, but when the opportunity to sail came up, I jumped at it.
In competition, the team participated in Match Racing with teams from Canada, Spain, Denmark, Greece, Poland and France. Each country faced opponents one-by-one during a qualification phase that determine seeding, followed by quarterfinal, semifinal, and finals. With a valiant effort, Team USA placed fifth, with Team France taking first place.
While the thrill of victory and agony of defeat is a part of the competitions such as these, the real goal is to foster friendships and working relationships between the countries.
“The whole goal of the Armed Forces Sports program is friendship through sport,” explained Kelly. We are creating friendships with all the countries; meeting in sport instead of on the battlefield.”
According to their website, The Armed Forces Sports Programs includes 18 Armed Forces Championships, 7 Championships and 20 International Championships within Conseil International du Sports Militaire. The program’s objectives include promoting goodwill through sports; promoting the positive image of the Armed Services through sports; encouraging physical fitness by promoting a highly competitive sports program; and providing the avenue for military athletes to participate in national and international competitions.
The Armed Forces Sports Program serves under the direction of the Armed Forces Sports Council, an executive agent of the Department of Defense. The council is responsible for the overall management and operation of Armed Forces, National and International sports activities. The AFSC consist of one representative from each of the five services, Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard.
“This has been an invaluable experience and opportunity for me,” said Kelly. “I look forward to seeing where it takes me next. Maybe it will be to Greece for Next year’s World Championship!”