By Sgt. 1st. Class Phillip Eugene, 412th TEC PAOJanuary 3, 2012
It's not your everyday sleigh ride. Sliding headfirst down an icy trail at speeds in excess of 80 mph is 'like jumping out of an airplane without leaving the ground,' according to Spc. Megan Henry.
The HHC, 854th Engineer Battalion intelligence analyst would know. At 24, she is an accomplished skydiver who first jumped out of an airplane at age 18 after seeing video footage of her father freefalling.
She picked up the basics of downhill sliding at a "sliding school" in Lake Placid, N.Y.
"She's always been an adrenaline junkie," said her mother, Barbara. "When she was little, she always loved the fastest ride at the carnivals. She always loved roller coasters."
Megan quickly advanced beyond the "sliding school," earning a spot in the World Class Athlete Program, which is an elite training program for exceptional Soldier-athletes. Her goal is to compete with the U.S. Skeleton team during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
"It would be rewarding to wear two uniforms to represent our country," said Megan.
Her journey to the WCAP began in April 2010, when Megan's former college strength coach suggested she try out for the U.S. Bobsled team. As a general practice, the U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation recruit athletes from other sports.
Megan impressed the Olympic officials during the tryout, but they told her that she needed to gain a minimum of 30 pounds because she was too small for Bobsled.
"I'm short in stature," said Megan who stands at 5-foot-3-inches. "My obligation to the Army requires a height and weight standard that I never would've passed."
Based on her start times and overall athleticism, the officials suggested that Megan try out for Skeleton. Determined to give it a shot, she took on the challenge with her family's support.
"I didn't know Skeleton from a bunch of bones in the doctor's office," said Megan's father Craig, a former high school All-American in football and track. "But she's very disciplined, once she commits herself, she'll see it all the way through."
In September 2010, Megan competed in a more comprehensive event that tested her speed, strength, and agility. She placed third overall, and first among women with a score of 693, well beyond the 600 minimum.
Her performance caught the attention of Tuffy Latour, head coach of the United States Bobsled and Skeleton Federation. Latour is also a staff sergeant in the National Guard, and he noticed the Army logo on Megan's apparel.
"He approached me and was like, 'Are you in the Army, or are you just wearing Army stuff?'" Megan recalled.
Latour suggested the WCAP to Megan, and she pitched the idea to her chain of command.
"It made no sense, her being in the Army Reserve and not applying for this great program," Latour said.
"She demonstrated the right motivation and commitment, plus an astronomical PT score," said Cpt. Aaron Perry, commander HHC 854th Engineer Battalion.
Megan's Army Physical Fitness Test scores have consistently exceeded 300, with 406 being the highest. Her Basic Training APFT score was tops in the battalion at 386. She earned the Golden Strategic Army Corp award for academic excellence along with a 398 APFT score during Advanced Individual Training at Fort Huachuca.
During AIT, she also earned a gold award for completing the German Armed Forces Proficiency Badge competition.
The German military established the GAFPB in the early 1960s to measure their soldiers' physical fitness. Fort Huachuca is one of 17 installations where U.S. Soldiers can earn the award.
Megan played Field Hockey in high school, and college at the Division 1 level. She was also a sprinter in high school.
"She's just a great athlete. She meets the athletic skills that we're looking for," said Latour. "She's progressively made the moves forward to make a run at the national team."
Megan credits the Army Reserve for the chance to compete, something she says she doesn't take for granted.
"I'm still very excited and very grateful for the opportunity to compete at this level while representing the Army and my unit," she said.