Story by Staff Sgt. Bryan Lewis
It is after work and as you walk by one soldier from the 16th Combat Aviation Brigade preparing for battle, a helmet gets snapped on, knee and elbow pads get checked and … roller skates get laced up.
Chief Warrant Officer 3 Victoria C. Corrigan, 16th CAB human resources technician, abandons her flat-footed combat boots at the end of her work day to roll out as “McKenna Gita Witness” on the Fianna Femmes roller derby squad.
The idea for Corrigan’s skating, blocking, lapping hobby came to her in 2010 before returning to Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.
“I was on my second deployment in Iraq and I tried to think of things to do when I got home from deployment that didn’t involve just sitting at home and watching TV,” Corrigan said. “The idea came to me that I could try out for roller derby.”
“I Googled ‘roller derby’ and Dockyard Derby Dames came up. They were having tryouts the same month I was returning from deployment, March 2010.”
The tryouts for the league tested Corrigan’s mobility in a way no Army ruck march could and her endurance with gear not issued for any type of deployment.
“They give you an initial assessment to see if you can fall correctly, if you can hit correctly and if you are stable on your skates,” Corrigan said. “And then they do an endurance assessment, which consist of skating 25 laps in under five minutes.”
According to the Dockyard Derby Dames website, DyDD has evolved from a small group of women in 2005 to a competitive four-team league composed of over 80 athletic, passionate, professional, and spirited women devoted to fostering sisterhood and promoting women’s sports.
“My most memorable moment in Washington was the day I was drafted to the Femme Fiannas because I spent 10 months as a draftee,” Corrigan said. “That time was at the end of the movie Whip It, so there were a lot of people who wanted to do roller derby at the time.”
Corrigan was then re-born as McKenna Gita Witness, a blocker for the team that takes its name from the Irish gangsters during the resistance in early Irish history. Corrigan would be more than just a witness to the spread of roller derby worldwide the next couple years.
During her next deployment to Afghanistan in 2011, she used her military ingenuity to piece together a league to give something to the soldiers at Kabul Air Base. “We used what was available to us. We had a tennis court and volleyball court that we used.”
Following her deployment, Corrigan moved on to Belgium in 2012 where she kicked off her boots and laced up her quad skates and compete on an international level.
Corrigan’s increase in all-around roller derby technique and ability put her in a rink against teams from around Europe and eventually led to her being invited to be a part of a clinic that involved skaters from France, Germany and the Netherlands.
“I just progressed by going to as many clinics as I can to learn, I watch a lot of derby and I have been playing derby consistently of the last three years,” Corrigan said. “It’s like any other sport. You improve by doing more.”
In 2013, Corrigan came full circle back to JBLM, but this time she skates as a veteran and floats between blocker, pivot and jammer to help her team where they need it.
“I use to be in a fog on the track, not knowing where to go or what to do, and I could anticipate what the other team was going to do,” Corrigan said. “Now, I’m at a point in my derby career where I can anticipate, and I have a role on the team where they listen, so I can communicate and execute a strategy.”
With McKenna Gita Witness’ career on a steady incline and her spot in the roller derby “sub-culture” becoming cemented, Corrigan does not plan to put on the brakes any time soon.
“Most of it for me is having a lot of fun. Most of the people I compete against are my friends, so it’s all in good fun,” said Corrigan, 37 years old. “I would love to continue competing until I’m too broken or old to do so.”