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Airman balances service with soccer passion

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Hernando Ortega, top row, third from the left, gathers for a photo with his fellow teammates before a match as part of the San Antonio Alamo Heights High School soccer team in Corpus Christi, Texas, April 13, 2012. Ortega and his teammates would go on to become state champions that year. Now a satellite systems operator with the 4th Space Communications Squadron, Ortega has been able to balance both service and his passion for the sport. (Courtesy photo)

SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo.-- --

 

Soccer, or football as it is commonly called outside the United States, is one of the world’s most popular sports; it should come as no surprise Schriever Air Force Base has its own soccer enthusiasts.

Airman 1st Class Hernando Ortega, a satellite systems operator with the 4th Space Operations Squadron, is among them.

“I’ve been playing soccer pretty much forever,” Ortega said. “I was in a military family so we moved all over. What really got me into the sport was when we were at Ramstein (Air Base) in Germany. The Germans are all about soccer.”

He encountered challenges when he first got into the sport, but he soon overcame them and gained a new sense of community.

“Initially, I struggled with not knowing the German language, and I had really bad ball control,” he said. “But I found it was a really great way to meet new people and make friends.”

He continued playing soccer throughout school and his families’ frequent relocations, eventually helping his team become the 2012 Texas state high school soccer champions.

He likened the final game to a sports movie.

“We had the subs come in last moment, it even went to a shootout at the end,” he said. “We were just a bunch of goofballs, it was amazing just traveling around. I’ll never forget it.”

Ortega continued to play soccer throughout college, before deciding to join the Air Force after stagnation in his career and a string of odd jobs.

“I figured ‘hey I’m just sitting here, why don’t I progress my career and serve my country at the same time?’ My parents were both in the Air force, so I was familiar with it,” he said.

He had reservations whether or not he could balance military service while still pursuing his passion. However, Ortega realized the Air Force allows him to not only balance both, but provides opportunities as well.

“I was a little worried, but you can definitely manage,” he said. “The comradery of the Air Force, it’s like a big family, you can find someone who loves the same thing easily.”

Ortega said he was looking into possibly joining the Air Force Falcons men’s soccer team and attending the Defender’s Cup National Military Soccer Tournament in San Antonio, Texas, Aug. 31 - Sept. 4, 2018.

Ortega said he and his friends usually get together once a week to play as a team for both indoors and outdoors soccer.

His fellow teammates described passion for the sport and quality as a member.

“He’s a great team player,” said Airman 1st Class Damian Sotelo, a satellite ground link sub systems operator with 4th SOPS, who has been playing soccer regularly with Ortega for over a year. “He can play well on both feet to control the ball, and can run for a long time. He’s always making puns- he’s a punny guy.”

Sotelo shared his belief Ortega will continue to better himself.

“He’ll find success in the future as a soccer player,” he said.

Ortega welcomes anyone to join him and his friends and is more than willing to help others pursue their love for the sport.

“It’s the greatest sport in the world,” he said. “If you love soccer, why not play it with the people you work with?”

For anyone interested in playing soccer with other Schriever Airmen, contact Ortega at 210-867-0501.

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