WIESBADEN, Germany — Installation Management Command named a U.S. Army in Europe officer as its 2019 Male Army Athlete of the Year.
Lt. Col. Eric Palicia, USAREUR deputy facilities and construction chief, earned the title based on his athletic abilities, military accomplishments and community outreach efforts.
“It felt incredible to be nominated; it still doesn't feel real (to have won),” said Palicia. “I was very surprised but the award comes as a testament to who I am, not only as an athlete, but as a Soldier.”
Palicia said part of being a Soldier-Athlete is never quitting or accepting defeat when challenged.
“In a 2016 intramural frisbee game, a competitor accidentally headbutted me, breaking most of the bones on the right side of my face resulting in a complete inability to speak or breathe normally for nine months,” Palicia said.
After healing and returning to normal physical training, he slipped on wet grass during warm-up drills. He tore his right meniscus and right shoulder labrum, resulting in additional months of inactivity.
Upon arriving here October 2018, he was still overcoming physical challenges.
“In January 2019 I saw a flier for the U.S. Army 10-Miler Team tryout in June,” Palicia said. “I decided that my current state and condition was over and I was going to make the team — even at 40 years old.”
Palicia met his goal by dropping 30 pounds and earned team captain status, with his squad placing third overall.
His athletic achievements did not stop there as he would go on to become the Army Fitness Team Expo Competition winner, the National Guard Expo Pull-Up Competition winner and the All-Army Alpha Warrior champion. He competed in the HYROX World Championships in Frankfurt, Germany, winning the Men’s 40+ competition.
Palicia also recorded the highest Army Physical Fitness Test score — on the unofficial extended scale — in USAREUR by completing 101 push-ups, 100 sit ups, and completing a 2-mile run in 12 minutes and 1 second. He also achieved the maximum score on the Army Combat Fitness Test and won multiple 5Ks and 10Ks at local M.W.R. events.
Palicia hopes his achievements will serve as motivation for others to become well-rounded athletes and Soldiers.
“For me to be honored with this is less about myself and more of the example I put forth for my Soldiers,” Palicia said. “This shows that what I have taught and how I’ve gone about doing physical training will produce results to compete at a high level for a lifetime.”
With a fitness motto of “be ready for whatever, whenever,” Palicia focuses his workouts on bodyweight, proportionality strength and cardiovascular endurance. With this motto and closures of gyms due to U.S. Army Europe’s COVID-19 preventative measures, his training regiment has not been impacted.
“The only times I went to the gym before all of this was due to weather or because I wanted to use the rowing machine,” Palicia said. “Anything else I wanted to do in the gym, I could do it outside.”
Palicia encouraged Soldiers and athletes alike to continue training towards a fitness goal during this time.
“As the Army often puts it, in the absence of orders — attack,” Palicia said. “If you ever have any questions or want to participate in a workout, reach out to me and I’ll see you out there,” he said.
The award ceremony for the Army's Athletes and Coach of the Year is postponed. It is scheduled to be held at the White House after COVID-19 related travel restrictions are lifted.