For nearly two decades, Army Capt. Justine Stremick has found success on the volleyball court earning honors in high school and college. The Association of the U.S. Army recently added one more accolade to her volleyball resume naming Stremick the 2018 Army Female Athlete of the Year.
"It's a big honor," Stremick said. "I think this is a cool way to represent the Army and represent a different side of the military."
"Justine has been a part of the All-Army Sports Program for two years and is a leader and great player in every sense of the word," said Sarah Galon, All-Army Service Rep and a member of the Army Athlete of the Year voting committee. "She is committed and knows what it takes be a team player, a motivator and a coach on the court. It is great to see her be recognized as a top Army athlete."
The road to being the Army's best female athlete began when she decided to try out for the All-Army volleyball team. She has made the team twice. It was something she wanted to do for several years but "the timing was never right. When I was in (medical) residency it is really hard to take that time off," said Stremick.
She credits her Troop Command-South leadership, hospital leadership and co-workers with being very supportive of her goal to compete at the highest levels of military sports. "It was so great to have support from the people who I needed to support my goal. It's not every co-worker who is going to say go ahead and play volleyball for a couple of months while we stay back here and work. I am really thankful that everything worked out and I was able to do something that I love."
Stremick's love for the sport started as a middle school student in Langdon, North Dakota, where she played with her twin sister through high school. Together the "twin towers" (both sisters are over 6 feet) helped their high school team win the state volleyball championship. She continued playing the sport at the University of Norte Dame and was named to the All Big East Volleyball team and received the Knute Rockne Student Athlete Award among other awards.
After completing a deployment to Afghanistan in early 2019, Stremick reported to the All-Army volleyball camp and was selected to play in the All-Armed Forces tournament. During the first match, she tore her ACL on her left leg. Athletes often get ACL injuries when they stop and quickly change directions while running.
"So of course I didn't get to play the rest of the tournament and that was a big bummer," she said. "We have a really fun team this year so I was really disappointed that I didn't get to play the rest of the tournament with them."
Now back at Fort Belvoir, the emergency medicine physician is recovering on the job and still working shifts in the ER. "The nurses and docs in the ER have been pretty accommodating. Working on crutches is pretty interesting," said Stremick. "I'm a little slower than I usually am. But mainly I am concentrating on recovery."
If all goes well with her recovery, Stremick will join her U.S. Armed Forces volleyball teammates in October as they compete in the International Conseil International du Sport Militaire (CISM) Military World Games in Wuhan, China. CISM is the largest military organization in the world and second largest multi-sport organization after the International Olympic Committee.
"I am just working on rehab. I am going to work hard and I am hoping to be in a position to play again in October," said Stremick.