By Randy Murray, Fort Stewart Public AffairsOctober 8, 2009
FORT STEWART, Ga. - By day, they're prim and proper stay-at-home moms, teachers, college students, waitresses, reporters, even scientists. But in the afternoon and on weekdays, these gentle ladies don their roller skates, pads, helmets and uniforms then hit the rink - and as many of their opponents as possible. Julie "Souxsie Skoolyard" Harrison, Army spouse and member of the Savannah Derby Devils, was looking for something physically challenging and fun when she joined the Devils four months ago.
"I wish I had done roller derby during my husband's two (previous) deployments," Harrison said, speaking of her 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team husband, Staff Sgt. Scott Harrison's previous deployments with the 3rd Infantry Division. "I did run the Army 10-Miler last year, but I was looking for something just as physical but fun."
The mild-mannered military mom found a good workout and fun with roller derby, a sport very popular in the 1970's that has seen resurgence in recent years. In fact, a new movie about Roller Derby, "Whip It," directed by Drew Barrymore, was released Oct. 2. As trailers for the movie show, roller derby players don't have to be the big, muscular, rugged types. Harrison said her husband and their 7-year-old son, Dean, are proud of her choice to become a "rollergirl" and love watching her rough it up on the rink.
"We have girls that weigh not even a (150 pounds) soaking wet, but they're quick on their feet, and when they hit you, you just cringe," Harrison laughed and pointed to bruises. "Once the adrenaline gets going, you don't see faces on the other team. You just see targets."
Harrison said the Devils consist of 28 ladies at this time. To score points, five members at a time work together to score points and prevent the other team from scoring. One designated skater, called a jammer, starts well in the back of the formation with the opponent jammer. The formation is led by another designated team member serving as a pivot. The pivot's job is to set the pace and inform her three blockers when a jammer is trying to get through the formation.It's the blockers' job to block the rival team's jammer from getting through or around the formation and assist their own jammer in getting through because she gets a point for every girl she passes. Blockers are allowed to bump or block opposing players with their own bodies, but Harrison said they're not allowed to elbow or use their fists to stop another player.
"I spent a lot of time in the penalty box when I first started playing," she said. "We don't do any of those crazy moves like (World Wrestling Entertainment). There's no fist fighting either, but we do hit hard, and we leave lots of bruises."
Harrison said she joined the Savannah Derby Devils during "boot camp" in June and said there will be another boot camp in June next year. She came to boot camp with an Army spouse friend, who never joined the team because her husband was reassigned to Germany. One of her fellow players, Chief Warrant Officer Melissa "Chain Gun Melly" Huber, is an Apache pilot, but she hasn't been able to train or compete with the team lately due to her upcoming deployment.
Harrison said the Devils practice three days a week at the Garden City gym. Anyone interested in trying out to be a rollergirl or those just wanting to watch good girls get mean can go to www.savannahdevils.com. All contact and schedule information is on the Web site.
"You don't even have to know how to skate," Harrison concluded. "You just have to have the heart to do it and be willing to have fun."