A diamond on a shirt and circuit track

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class John Linzmeier
  • 22nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
Unlike the rest of her teammates, a senior NCO here carries a pseudonyms derby name, "Diamond Sk8r." It not only represents her passion for roller derby, but it explains her love for being an Air Force first sergeant while serving off the circuit track.

Master Sergeant Shanti Leiker, 22nd Communications Squadron first sergeant, has been skating for the local Heartland Havoc roller derby team for nine months but has been skating since 2011.

The high-contact sport allows players to roller-skate around a track and score points by having a designated scoring player know as a 'jammer' advance past members of the opposite team. It's a sport she said provides another environment where she can put her first sergeant skills into practice for her fellow roller girls.

"Being part of the team is pretty natural for me, as a first sergeant," she said. "If someone is getting stressed out, I can help to let them know, "It's going to be ok, we're going to be alright.'"

Additionally, just as she is expected to help improve morale, welfare, and discipline of the enlisted members in her squadron, she cheers on her teammates, pushes them to win and provides comradeship.

When it comes to motivating new Airmen or rookie derby players, Leiker said she firmly believes in treating each person with respect.

Leiker's started skating while stationed at Yakota Air Base, Japan. She found the sport exciting, physically competitive, and stress relieving but the circumstances that lead to putting skates on her feet weren't the most positive.

After Japan's 2011 devastating earthquake and subsequent tsunami, her daughters evacuated back to the United States and remained there to live with their father.

"I had a lot more time on my hands, and roller derby helped to keep me stay active," she said. "A lot of people find derby to help get over a situation in their lives, but they stay because of the support and the camaraderie that comes with it."

Her first team, "The Yakota Scary Blossoms," included Japanese locals and other Airmen like her. She even sports a tattoo, an image of her skating in her original team jersey in front of iconic Mount Fuji, Japan.

In Kansas, she competes with other women while wearing bright knee socks, psychedelic-swirled nylon shorts and armbands above her elbow pads marked "AF1" on them. Air Force One is her derby number.

Even though the physical demands are high for roller derby players, Leiker rather enjoys the challenges.

"It's nerve-racking," she said. "But as soon as I am able to get on the track and start playing, I'm able to focus on the game, and everything's ok. For me, it's been a bridge. "I have my world on the Air Force base, but I'm also able to get out and get involved in the community."

The women on Leiker's team practice three times a week during the active sports season and travel hundreds of miles to compete with other amateur leagues. Leiker and her teammates also volunteer for fundraisers, generating money for their roller derby community and other charitable organizations.

Her biggest challenge is time management and balancing her commitments with her military career and skating.

"For me," said Leiker, "it's easier to do the balancing act because my girls still live with their dad."

Her duty as first sergeant is also noted by other Airmen on the base, even if they are from different squadrons.

Tech. Sgt. Christopher Peterson, 22nd MXS Aircraft flight control systems, referees at Leiker roller derby games.

There is a huge responsibility on her from her first sergeant duties alone, Peterson said, but she manages to juggle that aside and spend hours on the track.

Whether Leiker is working with Airmen within her squadron or skating with her peers on the track, Leiker is determined to help out her teammates.

"It's amazing," said Leiker. "If you have a look around, you'll find big people, small people, and even older people. It's such a conglomeration and it's very accepting of everybody, and I think that's the key."