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Reservist's daughter is youngest blackbelt

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Rachael Garneau
  • 446th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
The tenets of taekwondo are pretty similar to the Air Force's core values: courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self control and indomitable spirit.

One McChord Reservist's daughter followed all of those tenets to become the world's youngest taekwondo black belt, and it all started because of a deployment.

Staff Sgt. Scott DeLibero is a traditional Reservist with the 446th Civil Engineer Squadron's utilities shop. He and his wife Kalisa have two children, Simon, 10, and Sidney, 6. During their 10 years as parents, Scott and Kalisa have experienced one deployment and countless TDY's.

"My wife is the driving force behind keeping the family as tight as it is, especially with deployments and TDY's and tech school for 130 days," said Scott. "She always finds ways to keep us together."

Scott deployed to Iraq in 2006 when Simon was 4 years old. Kalisa said it was a tough transition for the family because she had just given birth to Sidney and Scott had never been gone for that long.

"It was difficult for Simon because all of a sudden he has a 6-week-old little sister and his dad is gone," said Kalisa. "So, I tried to find something for him to do to get him active. We tried to go do things that we would normally do, and he would end up sobbing because he was missing his dad. So, I couldn't take him to do those things. It was hard. So, taekwondo was a good option."

When Simon started taekwondo, Kalisa would bring Sidney along. For a few years, when the little girl was too young for the classes, the instructors would let her toddle along beside the class, off the mat and out of the way.

This went on until she turned 3 and was allowed to begin learning the sport alongside her brother.

"Usually, they're not allowed to start that early," said Kalisa. "She just went for it, standing next to kids that were twice her age."

"It's just something that I think they needed to have, some kind of physical outlet," said Scott. "Simon was being a good example and a good leader for her. She took to taekwondo like a duck to water."

Both children have stayed with the sport through multiple absences of their father for military duty.

"When there are those periods of time when you're gone, the less time they have to stress about some of the issues that we have as a military family, the better," said Scott. "This is a real good outlet for them to be able to handle some of those issues."

Sidney said her favorite part of the sport is sparring because she likes kicking and punching opponents.

In September, the tenacity of the now 6-year-old little girl paid off. Sidney was awarded her first-degree black belt.

After Sidney's instructor sent the documentation to the World Taekwondo Headquarters in South Korea, he received word that she was the youngest black belt in the world.

"We knew that it was cool that she was going to be a black belt because she was so little," said Kalisa. "We were all excited. But, a woman came to her ceremony who told us that Sidney was the youngest in America and the world. That's when we realized this is bigger than we thought."

As if Sidney's success wasn't enough, her now 10-year-old big brother is a second-degree black belt in taekwondo. Occasionally, outside of class, the two will spar.

"Simon will hold back because he still thinks of her as his little sister," said Kalisa. "But, Sidney, she won't hold back."

"She may look cute," said Simon. "But strap sparring gear on her and she is a demon."

In addition to taekwondo, Kalisa has Simon and Sidney involved in church, roller skating, and piano lessons.

"They need to be well-rounded," said Kalisa. "It's important to have different groups of friends and a good support system, especially if Scott ends up deployed again. It's kind of nice for them to be busy."

"I'm extremely proud," said Scott. "Whether they got black belts or didn't, my kids are cool. As a military family with MWR and JBLM McChord, we've done a lot of great things and it helps us be as tight as we are."