Robins officer makes a splash with AF swim team

  • Published
  • By Kendahl Johnson
  • 78th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
While not crunching numbers as a budget analyst for the 78th Comptroller Squadron, one Robins lieutenant is busy making a splash in the pool.

1st Lt. Ryan Fitzgerald, former team captain for the Air Force Academy swim team who specialized in long distance events, was recently selected for the Air Force swim team. In September, following a week of training at Sembach Air Base, Germany, he competed against members of several European air forces in Eindhaven, Holland.

Fitzgerald took second in the 400 meter freestyle, but that was just the icing on the cake. He said the best part was just being able to travel overseas to compete. He said his sport has allowed him to see other parts of the world he'd otherwise never see.

"It's always been a joy of mine to travel and represent the United States Air Force when I can," he said. "Swimming has definitely given me that opportunity. Because of swimming, I've been able to see a lot of interesting places around the world. I feel a great admiration to the Air Force for giving me the opportunity to travel to places like Germany and Holland to compete against other air forces."

The lieutenant helped the Air Force team finish in second place at the international competition, the best the men's team has done in numerous years, according to Steve Lowe of United States Air Forces in Europe sports. Fitzgerald said the training is pretty tough, but worth it.

"The training schedule is so demanding," he said. "To compete at such a high level, you really have to commit yourself to 10 to 11 practices a week. You have to practice Monday through Friday, once in the morning and once in the evening and again on Saturday for three or four hours. To be able to keep up that schedule is very challenging."

The swimmer said his background in swimming and his ability to train so rigorously has benefited him in his duties as an Air Force officer.

"Growing up as a high school and collegiate athlete has definitely paid huge dividends for me here in the military," he said. "When we do our early morning physical training sessions or when we have to do a week-long exercise where we are running 24-hour operations, it really wears on your body. Swimming has taught me endurance and keeps me in good physical shape, which allows me to perform my duties for the Air Force at a high level."

Fitzgerald said he's always had a passion for swimming. He started swimming at an early age, at the encouragement of his father, Jay Fitzgerald, who has been a swim coach for nearly 40 years. "Ryan has always enjoyed the sport of swimming and has been very successful at it over the years," Jay said.

Fitzgerald is currently swimming for a Macon club team. He hopes to be selected for the Air Force team next year, and is also interested in an upcoming armed forces competition in India. He said he is grateful for the support he's received at Robins in being able to continue to pursue opportunities to compete in the sport he loves.

"I really appreciate everything the Air Force has done in allowing me time off to train and time off to compete," he said. "The support within the squadron here at Robins has been unbelievable. My commanders have been totally supportive of everything I've been doing, as well as all the other members of squadron. I couldn't do it without their support."