MALMSTROM AIR FORCE BASE, Mont. (AFNS) -- (This feature is part of the "Through Airmen's Eyes" series. These stories focus on individual Airmen, highlighting their Air Force story.)
First Lt. Elizabeth Guidara, a 12th Missile Squadron missile combat crew commander at Malmstrom Air Force Base, is training to become the first Air Force female officer to go through the Marine Corps Martial Arts Center of Excellence.
"Once I finish the course, I will be a certified combative instructor and be able to teach combatives anywhere in the world and at any base," Guidara said.
While in college, Guidara's best friend introduced her to a boxing club. "I fell in love with it," she said.
Guidara has trained in the District of Columbia, South Korea, New Zealand, Thailand, California and now Montana. She has been training for a year and a half.
The Marine Corps training course is 10 hours a day, five days a week, and includes physical training and test-taking. The Marines also have their own belt system, and participants must have a gray belt to enter.
Guidara said her biggest weakness deals with her training and technique.
"It is hard when I am the only female out there sparing with guys, who weigh like 80 pounds more than me," she said. "It's hard because I want them to spar with me as their equals, but at the same time I know they are more experienced than me."
Guidara's ultimate goals are to achieve a black belt in Brazilian jujitsu and a belt in mixed martial arts.
South Korean roots
Guidara is a Korean-American born in Busan, South Korea. She was adopted by an Italian-American family at the age of 7 months.
"I had an amazing adoptive family; I was pretty blessed," she said. "I never saw them as my fake family."
Guidara's adoptive family was very supportive in her reconnecting with her roots, by showing her files of her birth family and being open to the idea of her meeting with them one day.
Guidara met her birth family for the first time at age 14. She was able to go back to South Korea with five or six other Korean adoptees and their adoptive families.
"I grew up in a country where culturally I felt American, and then was able to go back to my ethnic roots and look as if I belong, but still feel like a foreigner."
Guidara's birth mother once called her crying, while her friend translated.
"She tried to kill herself; she was bulimic, she was depressed," Guidara said. "My birth father would go into these drunk rages and beat her violently.”
She hopes to train others facing similar situations or to prevent them.
"I want to be able to teach classes to others, and on top of that teach women's self-defense courses," Guidara said. "It goes back to finding out my birth mother was a victim of domestic violence; women should know how to defend themselves at a basic level.
"Don't be afraid to take a risk; it may be a little intimidating at first, but just go for it," she continued. "It is hard work, but it will pay off in the end. You have to remember the bigger picture of your goals, and don't give up."