When you see or hear about Lt. Col. Ken Corigliano, you will learn that he is a 24-year veteran of the Air Force, that he was one of the final four competitors on the Netflix series “Ultimate Beastmaster,” and that he has won 18 Savage race events, which is the second most in the world. In spite of everything he has done as a member of the military and as an athlete, “Air Force Ken” would be the first to say that he came from very humble beginnings. His enrollment in the Air Force was the beginning of his life-changing forever.
“When my recruiter Calvin Douglas, who’s now my best friend 23 years later, found me, I was nothing. I thought I was this big, tough guy. But when he showed me the way, with his class and professionalism, it was mind altering,” Corigliano says. “When I joined the Air Force, I was nothing but thankful because knowing the path I was on and the path I could’ve taken, I was so thankful.”
A commitment to service
Lt. Col. Ken Corigliano’s service career has seen him be involved in action around the world, including Afghanistan, Baghdad, Iraq, and Uzbekistan. He would eventually return to the United States to attend college. The catalyst that led to him achieving so much as a soldier and an athlete was the fact that he failed the school’s ROTC Physical Fitness Test. Instead of giving up and calling his loss, he doubled down and called his shot.
“I vowed to never be unprepared for anything! I left that ROTC unit with the fitness record, which still stands to this day,” he said. That motivation combined with next-level dedication saw him eventually reach the 2012 Olympic triathlon trials. However, he was hit by a car before he could compete. He was also deployed to Iraq shortly after. In spite of the injuries he suffered, he still went on his mission.
“I spent six agonizing months in an abandoned palace in Baghdad getting rocketed, mortared, and bombed on a daily basis,” he said. The action took a toll on him to say the least. “Years following, I had little memory, my hair was falling out, I was overmedicated, and my tinnitus was maddening. The only thing that kept me sane, balanced, focused and gave me hope was when my body was in motion.”
In spite of the circumstances that Corigliano faced and the results afterward, he actually found a positive viewpoint that kept him going: There are many people in much more dire situations than he.
“There are millions of people in bed that are in bed, terminally ill, that would trade places with me at any point in my time in my life,” he humbly confessed. That mindset is why Corigliano’s career has seen him receive numerous honors, including the Air Medal, Commendation Medal of Heroism, Multiple Meritorious Service Medals, Achievement Medals and Commendation Medals.
A passion for fitness
As for that love of athletics, it led Corigliano to competing and excelling in numerous sports, including obstacle course racing, triathlons, running, swimming, cycling, and television competitions such as “Ninja Warrior” and the aforementioned “Beastmaster.” Out of those he had competed in 18 national and world championship events, a long way from the guy that failed a fitness test in college. He said that if you saw him as a kid, he wouldn’t look the type to have succeeded the way he has, but his mother would’ve said “yes” if asked if he could.
“No one would’ve believed her, but she always had undying faith for me and love,” he stated proudly. Fitness is now something he lives daily, and that has extended to other members of his family and friends as well.
“There is no try, they just do,” he says. “Anyone who is around me is benefitting or being influenced by my dedication to making sure that people fall in love with being in their own bodies.” Now when he competes, he is locked in on the goal and nothing deters him. He expressed that it requires a new level of commitment to excel in the types of sports he is active in.
“People don’t really, really, really understand what it takes to be at the top. They think people who win or who are the best [at what they do] simply do more of what other people don’t want to do, but it’s not even that,” he explained. “It’s an obsession, passion, love, commitment, every moment of every waking hour, knowing that you need .2% and two millimeters of everything that adds up over time to make them the best.”
At the end of the day, Corigliano feels that a big part of the life he enjoys is thanks to the people who he surrounds himself with. His family and friends within his circle are people that make him do more and work harder.
“Humans are not designed to be alone,” he said emphatically. “You can not and will not thrive if you do not surround yourself with people who believe in you because that energy is needed. When you bring together two voices that are similar, they amplify. My mom, my friends, and random people like Calvin Douglas, Rob Wilkins (M&F Military Editor), and others who have no expectations of return to themselves. Without them, I would be nothing.”
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