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USSA Hosts Navy and Air Force Military Mentors

By U.S. Ski & Snowboard
March, 10 2015

After two U.S. podium sweeps at the Sprint U.S. Grand Prix in Park City, UT, U.S. Ski Team, U.S. Freeskiing and U.S. Snowboarding athletes gathered at the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA)’s Center of Excellence to share a meal and inspiring stories with two military mentors.

Former U.S. Senator and NASA astronaut Jake Garn and Colonel Thomas P. Klingensmith spent an evening with the athletes as part of the USSA’s Military Mentorship Program (MMP). Presented by PenFed, MMP brings veterans, active-duty service members and elite athletes together to build relationships and share their personal stories of teamwork, perseverance and reaching the limits of their potential. The sponsorship of the Military Mentorship Program by PenFed is produced in conjunction with Formula Strategy Group, a strategic marketing and communications firm specializing in military- and sports-themed events, media, and sponsorships.

“Spending time with Senator Garn and Colonel Klingensmith was really cool,” said freestyle aerial athlete Morgan Northrop. “They’ve done so much for our country and we are able to compete in our sports because of their service. They understand the mental and physical challenges we go through as athletes, so it was cool to share our stories with them and hear theirs. And it’s not every day you get to meet a real astronaut!”

Colonel Thomas P. Klingensmith shares his stories with a group of USSA athletes and Staff at the Center of Excellence.

Senator Garn, who is also a retired brigadier general, shared his stories of space, politics, his Navy aviator experiences and his involvement with skiing.

“I have had a long history with snow sports,” said Senator Garn. “I took lessons from Alf Engen in the winter of 1945-6, and have skied every year since. Skiing reminds me of flying. The flow, the movement, the freedom—it’s all very intertwined.”

Colonel Klingensmith is also familiar with the art of flight. As vice commander of the 419th Fighter Wing at the Hill Air Force Base in Utah, he commands over 1,100 assigned fighter wings in the commander’s absence, oversees operations, maintenance and support groups, a medical squadron and the wing staff.  Throughout the course of his career, Colonel Klingensmith logged more than 3,300 hours in an F-16. In his civilian job, he is a commercial airline pilot of Delta Air Lines, flying a B-737.

“I really appreciated being able to spend time with Colonel Klingensmith,” said mogul athlete and Olympian Brad Wilson. “His compliments really meant a lot. Having someone understand how much hard work it takes to get where we are really helps when giving advice. Colonel Klingensmith was able to give us some key points that we can improve and focus on to become even better than we are now.”

Colonel Thomas P. Klingensmith and former U.S. Senator Jake Garn.

Both elite athletes and military members are representatives of the USA abroad. Through MMP, they’re able to learn and grow together, sharing their stories in a group setting that creates an engaging and interactive learning environment for everyone involved.

“The rigorous training that I had to endure for being a U.S. Naval aviator, as well as a payload specialist/astronaut on the Space Shuttle Discovery, prepared all of us to be calm but laser focused in order to accomplish the missions at hand,” said Senator Garn. “It’s really no different than the training that these incredible athletes go through.  They prepare themselves continuously to perform at the highest level of competition, to push their limits, and to go faster, higher, further, then their competitors.”