Lt. Col. Kirschman: Playing the beautiful game

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Anneliese Kaiser
  • 92nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

As the smell of fresh cut grass fills the air, a young boy races across the field, eyes darting from side-to-side looking all around him. He digs his cleats into the ground kicking up dirt, and begins weaving in between defenders toward the goal. He jukes, lines up his shot…Score! Admiring his work, the then three-year old Jeremiah knew in that moment, his destiny was on the field.

Lt. Col. Jeremiah Kirschman, 92nd Mission Support Group deputy commander, found his love of soccer early on in life where he became an Air Force top player and coach, using his love for the game to motivate those around him.

“I started when I was three years old,” Kirschman said. “I played lots of other sports, but soccer was the sport I excelled the most at. My older brother who is four years older than me also played, so we got to play on the team, which helped get better because I was faster than a lot of the other kids and was able to score lots of goals.”

Kirschman carried that dream with him playing through high school hoping to get recruited to play in college.

“My senior year of high school, I was trying to figure out where I wanted to go to college, I started getting recruited by certain colleges, and then someone mentioned the Air Force Academy,” Kirschman said. “The Air Force Academy coach came to one of my games and got to see a video of me and see me play, and they mentioned I’d be a blue-chip recruit, meaning I’d be one of the top recruits that they were trying to bring in that year.”

The Air Force Academy head coach at the time guided Kirschman into the academy to become a cadet, a great leader and soccer player ready to take his level of play to a higher level. 

“My time at the academy was great, graduation was coming up, and rather than starting my Air Force technical training, my teammates and coach encouraged me to put in an application to try out for the All-Air Force Men’s Soccer Team,” Kirschman said. “In 2007, I was selected to play for the All-Air Force Men’s National soccer team, and six years later made the All-Armed Forces Men’s U.S. National Team, where I got to participate in the Military World Cup in Azerbaijan.”

The Military World Cup is a competition that takes place every four years for national military teams worldwide to compete against one another in a variety of sporting events. Each national team sends their best service member athletes to represent their nation’s armed forces, where Kirschman was one of best representing the Air Force and U.S. as a top soccer player.  

“My first international experience was playing in the Military World Cup,” Kirschman said. “It truly is an unbelievable experience to be treated like a professional athlete and represent your country as the national anthem is played in front of tons of fans.”

Kirschman’s responsibilities as a U.S. Armed Forces athlete would later grow beyond the field, and into the community spreading the love of the game to those all around.

“I got to do a mission trip down in Tijuana, Mexico, where we went to donate soccer balls, teach some soccer drills and get a whole village to come out and connect through soccer,” Kirschman said. “What I absolutely love the most about the game, is how it makes everybody come together, and how it’s a common language for almost everyone. There are many ways that people with different backgrounds and cultures and can all come together, but for us, that’s through a soccer ball.”

After completing his first year as one of the U.S. Armed Forces elite athletes, Kirschman was faced with one of his most adverse life moments after suffering a career ending knee injury, which would sideline him as a top player, and begin his transition into an inspirational coach.

“I absolutely miss being a player, but as I’ve gotten older and through the surgeries now, it’s better I’m not on the field,” Kirschman said. “I absolutely love being a part of the team, love being a part of the program, and I’ve been blessed to be given this opportunity to be the head coach for All-Air Force and Armed Forces level.”

The head coach of the All-Air Force Team brought Kirschman on as his assistant in 2015, and most recently in 2019, Kirschman became the head coach for the U.S. Men’s Armed Forces National Soccer Team, bringing his military athlete career nearly full-circle.

“Being a coach of the U.S. Armed Forces Men’s National Soccer team, I got Marines, Air Force, Army, Navy and even Coast Guard,” Kirschman said. “Trying to get the team together in a matter of just two weeks and then go out and play and represent your county, is definitely a challenge that I embrace and love.”

Kirschman got to Fairchild in July to fill the MSG deputy commander position, basically the mayor of oversight of six squadrons infrastructure from force support to the security at the front gate.

“Our MSG deputy commander position had been vacant since February since his arrival, Lt. Col. Kirschman has filled an essential void,” said Capt Veronica Ragay, 92nd MSG executive officer. “He is definitely a motivating person with a team building attitude. He is a great leader and I think that definitely has to do with his background as a player and coach.”

For Kirschman, family has played a key role in his ability to stay motivated and passionate both on and off the field, with his older brother serving as his inspiration to give 100% toward everything. 

“By the time my brother was 10 years old, he was in a wheelchair and lived to be 29 years old,” Kirschman said. “A lot of my motivation and perspective on life stems from my family, specifically my brother because he couldn’t play. I would play for him, and that’s what really gave me that courage to keep playing at the highest level I could and always give it 100%.”

One of Kirschman’s brothers was born with a genetic disorder called Duchenne muscular dystrophy, which is characterized by progressive muscular degeneration and weakness.

“He helped make me who I am, whether it be on or off the field, I learned not to complain so much, and be grateful for what I can do because he couldn’t,” Kirschman said. “Soccer for me is how I met my wife, how I got free education, how I’ve gotten to travel all over the world and play different teams from all over the world throughout my career. I think there is so much you can learn from being on a sports team and confronting teams that are better than you and seeing how resilient you are.”