363 ISRW Airman rises to the occasion, helps Air Force win Gold at 2022 Armed Forces Men’s Soccer Championship

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. AJ Hyatt
  • 363d Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Wing
The Air Force finished undefeated and took home the Gold during the 2022 Armed Forces Men’s Soccer Championship at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., March 5-13.
In four round-robin games, the Air Force team allowed only one goal and that’s thanks to their defense and goalkeeper. The goalie for the Air Force club hails straight from the 17th Intelligence Squadron, Senior Airman Gavin Bryant. In the three games that he started – he gave up zero goals in regulation.
The Texas-native has been playing soccer since he was able to walk.
“My dad played goalkeeper [as well] and showed me the way,” said Bryant. “I became serious about goalkeeping in the fifth grade when I joined the Fort Worth Football Club.”
His passion for soccer continued as he then played for the Tejanos Soccer Club and for the North Crowley High School soccer team. Bryant later earned a partial scholarship to play soccer at Southwest Baptist University where he became the starting goalkeeper his freshman year.
Bryant followed his parent’s footsteps and joined the Air Force in 2019, but his passion for soccer remained strong.
His military soccer career starting when he saw the “JBLE SC” (Joint Base Langley-Eustis Soccer Club) on social media. Bryant followed the page and saw a post for upcoming tryouts. This team would travel to San Antonio every September and play in the Defender’s Cup, which is a military soccer tournament against other bases and installation teams.
“Gavin had an outstanding performance [as goalie] at Defender’s Cup in San Antonio last September,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Jeremiah Kirschman, All-Air Force Men’s Soccer coach. “I invited him to camp based off his strong performance. He came into camp on Day 1 ready to show everyone what he was capable of. He had the right attitude and played very well for his teammates.”
This strong performance paid off.
“When the coach called me telling me I was going to MacDill to try out for the team I was in disbelieve,” Bryant said. “Out of 200-plus applicants he chose me and three other goalkeepers Air Force-wide to try out. When they announced me as the starter for the Army game, I felt like I deserved it. In practice I was working very hard and performing as a very sharp, technical goalkeeper.”
Bryant received high praise from his coaches.
“Gavin was an all-around professional on and off the field,” said Pat Nichols, All-Air Force Men’s Soccer goalkeeper coach. “He was dedicated to doing whatever needed to be done to make the team better and it was evident in his attitude. Gavin showed great leadership in the back by remaining vocal with his teammates and helping lead the AF team to a 0.00 goals against average while he was in the net. Gavin also came up huge in the win over the Marines by stepping in the net during penalty kicks and making three huge stops helping propel the Air Force team into the Championship match!”
The Air Force won their first game 2-0 against the Army on March 6, 2022. Their second game against the United States Marine Corps finished with Air Force winning 3-1 in penalty kicks. Air Force then won their next match-up against the Navy 1-0 on March 10, 2022.
Bryant compared the soccer team to a brotherhood – a special connection between your teammates. 
“The Air Force soccer team is full of all ranks from airman basic to major,” Bryant said.” “We became a close nit group very quickly, everyone there was so supportive and encouraging. “I miss them every day.”
The championship match pitted Air Force and Navy for a rematch on Saturday, March 12, 2022.
Going into the championship game – Bryant remained locked in.
“I had an old teammate that I played with my whole child hood competitive career at Fort Worth Football club and at the Tejanos soccer club who played for Navy,” Bryant said. “All week he was telling me they were going to win so my mind set going into this game was I am going to play the best soccer of my life right now and no way is he beating our team or scoring on me. During that game, I saved three attempts that he personally had on goal against me. Which was very satisfying for me. I live for playing big games on big stages like the Armed Forces national soccer tournament finals!”
Air Force went on to win the championship game 4-0 against the Navy squad and after the championship match.
“I’ve never seen a player rise to the occasion as much as Gavin did during the tournament. He played lights out!” said Kirschman. “Gavin didn’t let a single goal in over 270 minutes and led his backline to a national championship. He was the best goalkeeper in the tournament and was selected for the U.S. All-Tournament Men’s Soccer Team as the top goalkeeper out of the Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force.”
Bryant has high hopes for his soccer future.
“Unfortunately, this year there isn’t a CISM [International Military Sports Council] team, but next year there will be a Military World Cup and it will be hosted in Cairo, Egypt. “I hope to be considered for goalkeeper for this Military National Team and I will be able to represent the U.S. Armed Forces team overseas during this tournament next year.”
The tournament’s best goalkeeper owes thanks to the local base soccer team that made it all possible.
“I would really like to shout out the JBLE SC team and all the base teams,” said Bryant. “Getting on the base team and traveling on my own dime to the Defender’s Cup in San Antonio is how this all started and I want to make sure anyone in the military that is competitive at soccer knows about this tournament and knows it could give them a chance to play for their branch team. JBLE SC team is having tryouts soon and hopes more players will come out.”
The Armed Forces Sports (AFS) program was officially established in 1948 as the Inter-Service Sports Council (ISSC). The ISSC was directly involved in the creation of the policy and procedures that paved the way for Armed Forces personnel to have the opportunity to train and compete for national, Olympic, and international competitions, such as the CISM World Military Championships.
Today, the AFS program is the culmination of each branch of services' sports and fitness program.  Service members participate and compete at unit-level intramurals and advance to the All-Service level.  The AFS continues to provide an avenue for military service members to participate in national and international competitions.
For more information, visit armedforcessports.defense.gov for complete results and links to photos.