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Majestic soldiers

How JBLM soldiers bring the fight to the football field

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Monique Ani-Opiopio, right, and Spc. Rosalie Ani-Opiopio, left, both assigned to the 6th Military Police Group (Criminal Investigation Division), pose for a picture at JBLM, May 11, 2023. Photo credit: Pfc. Kourtney Nunnery

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"What I love about having people from the military who come and play football is that they have that drive and respect for the game," said Cydni Butz-Houghton, Head Coach for the Seattle Majestics football team.

The Seattle Majestics is an amateur football team competing in the Women's National Football Conference (WNFC) and is an icon in the Seattle community and surrounding areas. The team is a non-profit organization that gives back to the community with food drives, inspirational school trips, and volunteering with Habitat for Humanity, and the Make-A-Wish Foundation. The Majestics attract female athletes from all corners of Washington including active-duty female soldiers from the nearby Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

Butz-Houghton describes the attitude of athlete-soldiers on her team.

"Mentally, they know it's like a mission for them," said Butz-Houghton. "They're going to see it through, so I don't have to worry about them giving up on me or giving me any less than 100% every time."

Coach Houghton says that the soldiers on the team have a lot of fight in them as these players fight battle during their day jobs then come to the field and fight a different battle.

"It takes a special kind of woman to suit up for work and defend her country to then to turn around and suit up again and defend her team."

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Monique Ani-Opiopio and spouse Spc. Rosalie Ani-Opiopio assigned to the 6th Military Police Group (Criminal Investigation Division) at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, play linebacker and wide receiver for the Seattle Majestics.

"I remember being on the sideline watching my little brother play football and I thought ‘That's going to be me one day,'" said Spc. Rosalie Ani-Opiopio. Spc. Ani-Opiopio has a deep love and passion for this game and didn't let the excuse of being in the military stop her from pursuing her dreams. "I want to inspire other soldiers because a lot of people don't know that you can do things like this while still being in the military."

Spc. Ani-Opiopio continues, explaining that the Army has supported her passion by allowing her extra time for games, practices, and community outreach events, and gives her comrades time to attend the games to support her. However, balancing a career in football and the military is not always easy.

"The biggest quality needed to be a soldier and an athlete is the ability to bounce back," said Staff Sgt. Monique Ani-Opiopio. "You will have days where you don't want to be there, when you aren't going to win that game, or when you're not going to make the mission, but that doesn't matter. You have to give 100% regardless of the outcome."

Staff Sgt. Ani-Opiopio emphasizes how crucial it is to be able to wash away the stress from the day and not carry it into tomorrow. One of the best ways for her to relieve her stress is on the football field amongst her teammates.

The football community is similar to the military community in terms of cohesion and camaraderie. Staff Sgt Ani-Opiopio explains that both communities feel as though they are a part of a large family whether it is among your brothers and sisters in arms or your sisters on the field.

"In the Army, we move around a lot but knowing there are other football teams, that reassures me in knowing that there is a community of people I can understand that also have the same passion," said Staff Sgt Ani-Opiopio. "So even if I can't find a friend in a new duty station, I know I can at least find somebody in that community."

The world of women's football can be a great way to make the most of soldier's passions. With the right amount of discipline and drive, anything is achievable.

When asked if more female soldiers should pursue sports in or outside the Army, Spc Ani-Opiopio said, "You only live once. So be all you can be and go for it."

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