By Alton Dunham (USAG Fort Huachuca)February 3, 2011
FORT HUACHUCA, Ariz. -- Those who observe this year's All-Army camp, held here, will notice gender is not a factor. The boxers are simply athletes, with both men and women training and boxing each other indiscriminately as one cohesive team.
And now that the International Olympic Committee has finally included women's boxing in the 2012 games, this year's All-Army camp looks to be sitting on a gem that might just be America's best hope to medal, a gem this branch of service wouldn't have if it wasn't for one athlete's commitment to the Army values.
Army World Class Athlete Spc. Caroline Barry is no secret in the boxing world.
A 10-time national champion and five-time U.S. team captain, she has achieved almost every type of amateur glory. She has been ranked as high as fifth in the world, she has competed and medaled in six international tournaments, and competed in two world championships. Her boxing resume is as long as it is impressive.
In fact, she is so accomplished, she has already retired once.
"In 2009, I competed in Ireland in front of 10,000 people, and [after the fight] decided to retire on a high note to start coaching," Barry admits.
About seven months after she bowed out, the IOC announced women's boxing in the Olympics, a cause Barry campaigned for almost a decade as an athlete representative for USA Boxing.
Along with the Olympic announcement, also came a flood of offers clamoring for the chance to attach themselves to the historic significance of supporting a first-ever women's medalist in the sport.
Barry had plenty of suitors, but instead chose to seek out her mentor, current All-Army Head Coach Basheer Abdullah, with whom she had previously trained, to inquire about joining a team she prefers to call her "family."
Ultimately, her choice simply boiled down to loyalty and selfless service to her country.
"I had a lot of people offer me private sponsorships, and an agency that wanted to represent me," she said, "But I knew that being a part of the Army that I would be fighting for something bigger than myself."
To become eligible for the team, Barry enlisted in the Army Reserves.
"I had never been in the military at all," Barry said. "When I used to train with [the All-Army team] I used to joke my rank was C.I.V. [civilian]."
The 30-year-old fondly recalled being surrounding by the Army athletes after a win in Colorado, a moment she says help lead toward her decision to bring her highly sought after talents to the World Class Athlete program. Though she wasn't enlisted at the time, the All-Army team treated Barry like one of their own. They treated her with respect.
"There is nobody else I would rather have as my coach or as my teammates than the World Class Athletes," Barry says. "You just don't see other teams like us. We are all dressed alike, cheering for each other. We are a cohesive family."
Something else happened along the way, as Olympic glory is no longer the Eastern Michigan University grad's sole goal in life. Barry also has a strong sense of duty.
"I'm working on my direct commission, and after the Olympics I hope to deploy," she explained.
The once Athlete-Soldier has transitioned into a Soldier-Athlete, and is fully committed to serving her country as more than just a boxing ambassador.
Now that the Army has courted the hard-hitting ring general, she still has some work to do.
To complete her Cinderella story, Barry must still fell one more opponent in a bout to be contested at the All-Army boxing championship this Saturday, at Barnes Field House.
A loss could potentially mean no bid to the Olympic trials.
As such, the accomplished veteran has tunnel vision when it comes to her career path, and she is taking nothing for granted.
"All that matters is this next fight," Barry admits.
And in a sport where upsets can and do happen there is still one clear winner. That's the Army, for gaining a Soldier like Barry who embodies the Army Values; win, lose, or draw.