by Thea Skinner
21st Space Wing Public Affairs staff writer
Higher purpose — that is what Eli Bremer, a USA Pentathlon Olympian, strives to accomplish. Mr. Bremer, who served as a special operations flight sergeant at Peterson in 2004 and 2005, focused on leadership, heightened workplace performance and elite athleticism at the Peterson auditorium June 22.
“If you want to be a leader, embrace failure. Many people are scared of failing and think that leaders and high performers don’t fail. For every success in my life, I have had more failures than I can count. The few people who have the guts to fail time and time again are the ones who will become the strongest leaders,” Mr. Bremer said. “I have had to drag myself kicking and screaming to train. Nine days out of 10 I do not feel like doing this.”
The U.S. Olympics’ motto of swifter, higher, stronger parallels the Air Force values of integrity, service and excellence.
“I always think of this as a higher purpose,” Mr. Bremer said. “There is a kind of respect through sports in countries.
“Being in the Air Force has defined my Olympic career. The entire time I was training and competing, I was in the Air Force and supported by the Air Force. It has given me great pride to represent both the (United States) and the Air Force at the top sports competitions in the world,” he said.
In 2004 Mr. Bremer’s uncle, Ambassador Paul Bremer, former Presidential Envoy to Iraq, negotiated with the International Olympic Committee to impose sanctions on the regime under control by Saddam Hussein, which abused Iraqi athletes. The action required Iraq elections to take place before athletes were allowed to compete to qualify for the Olympics.
As a result, in January 2004, the first free elections were held in Iraq, as well as Iraqi athletes qualified for the Olympics. During the 2008 Summer Olympic Parade of Nations opening ceremony, the American flag was the last flag to receive a standing ovation for creating the elections.
“It showed me how the Olympics and sports can impact the world,” he said.
Mr. Bremer participated in the Air Force Services World Class Athlete Program, in which he graduated in November 2001. The program propelled him to the Olympics.
Steve Brown, chief of Air Force Sports, has assisted with the program since 1993 and understands the level of commitment involved in elite status fitness.
“There is friendship in the military through sports,” he said. “Last session we had 26 in our program that are military — they have to train to get to the status.”
Mr. Brown holds Mr. Bremer’s efforts in high regard.
“He exemplifies what the program is about. In the second year he made the Olympic team,” Mr. Brown said. “It’s not only leadership, it is time management. When you are involved you have to budget your time. Athletes do better at their job, because they budget their time so well.”
Similarly, Mr. Bremer owns a company that pairs elite athletes with business managers to heighten on-the-job performance.
“What I encourage you to do today is look at your goals in relation to sports. People learn from sports — you don’t have to be an Olympian to do that,” he said to the audience. “The last two presidents have been avid athletes.
Although Mr. Bremer separated from the Air Force in 2008, he applied to an Individual Mobility Augmentee unit in Washington, D.C., in June.
“If I am accepted, I would assume I would be back in the Reserves sometime this summer. After that, I have to decide if I am competing for 2012,” Mr. Bremer said. “Half the Olympians from the last four Olympics came from the military.”
Four military athletes from the program competed in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China. Two Airmen athletes will compete in bobsledding in the 2010 Winter Olympics.
“My time in the Air Force helped me keep the fame and glamour of being an Olympian in perspective,” Mr. Bremer said. “No matter what you do, if you do it for yourself, you are much more likely to fail. When you have a bigger calling, it’s easier to find the strength and willpower to win.”
(For more information about the Air Force sports program, visit http://www.usafsports.com.)