By Anna Braunsdorf
U.S. Air Force Captain Kenneth Corigliano has deservedly earned a reputation as the most physically fit person on his base.
One year after graduating Magna Cum Laude from Saint Leo University in 2006, Corigliano was named Air Force Athlete of the Year. In 2008, he competed in two Triathlon World Championships, appeared on the cover of Runner’s World magazine, and was appointed U.S. Department of Defense Liaison for the Summer Olympic Games in Beijing. The following year, Corigliano received a letter of appointment to the U.S. Olympic Triathlon Training Team, and in 2011, he was a double gold medalist at the Armed Forces Triathlon Championships.
And now he is the Sunshine State Conference’s male representative on the Division II 40th Anniversary Tribute Team being recognized this year.
But Corigliano was not always the epitome of physical fitness. Before entering the Air Force in fact, he was a self-described “rambunctious young man.”
“I was the troublemaker in class,” Corigliano said. “When the recruiter came in, he was smooth and he just shut down my little antics. He spent a lot of time with me. He didn’t even know if I was going to sign up or if I was good enough, but he saw something that resonated with him. I called him up and said, ‘Hey man, can you grow me up?’”
Thus began Corigliano’s career in the Air Force. A couple of years after he enlisted, he was flying an overseas mission when there was an explosion in the liquid cooling system. Corigliano stepped up and fixed the situation. His commander was so impressed that he recommended promoting Corigliano to officer. But before that could happen, Corigliano needed a college degree. Intent on moving up the ranks, he applied for and received a four-year ROTC scholarship and enrolled at Saint Leo in 2002.
“Walking in there, I felt at home,” Corigliano said. “It was beautiful and secluded. I didn’t want a big city, parties and stuff like that because I had earned this scholarship on the tax-payer dime, and I felt indebted to not only the military and the taxpayers but to myself.”
One of Corigliano’s first requirements at Saint Leo was a fitness test.
“I stopped at a half mile on the track,” Corigliano said. “And back then you couldn’t stop as an officer candidate. You had to finish – at least keep moving – so that disqualified me.”
Knowing he needed to improve his endurance if he wanted to pass his fitness test and become an officer, Corigliano joined the school’s cross country team even though he didn’t enjoy running.
“As an officer, I felt that it was important to do things I didn’t want to do,” Corigliano said. “I needed to learn to embrace things that were painful and unpleasant if I was going to tell troops to risk their lives because of my command.”
However, it didn’t take long for Corigliano to embrace running, and he soon began competing in triathlons. He also excelled in the classroom. In 2003, he was named the NCAA’s On-Campus Student-Athlete of the Year and was featured on Fox Sports. As a senior in 2006, Saint Leo recognized him as an Exceptional Student-Athlete. Corigliano graduated as a six-time President’s Club member with a dual major in political science and international relations. His academic degrees and newfound athletic abilities proved to be just the springboard his Air Force career needed.
In his first year after graduation, Corigliano was appointed as the primary force protection analyst for Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and for all of the President’s foreign travel. Then in 2008, he was selected as the Chief of U.S. Official Government Travel Intelligence Operations for all official U.S. Government international dignitary travel.
Corigliano continued to excel. In 2009, he earned an Air Force Commendation Medal for sustained achievements in a deployed environment and was named the 89th Airlift Wing’s Officer of the Year. The following year, he was elected president of the Company-Grade Officers Council. And in 2011, he received another Commendation Medal for achievements during a combat deployment and was nominated for the Lance P. Sijan Award, the Air Force’s highest award.
Somehow, Corigliano also managed to find time to return to school. He graduated from Webster University in 2009 with a Masters of International Relations. He still participates in triathlons, as well, and bikes and swims for the Air Force team. Perhaps more impressive than his personal physical accomplishments, though, is his devotion to helping others achieve physical fitness. He not only coaches members of his squadron and sends newsletters explaining the importance of nutrition, exercise and rest, he has also served as a volunteer coach for youth triathlon and swim teams.
“What I want to do with this sport – this genre of physical activity – is to bring it to the world,” Corigliano said. “And I want to bring it to the world in a way that motivates and inspires, so I’ve started a business to do that on the side. In the sports that I do, there are no losers. The guys who are with me want to show the world that everybody wins, and everyone has a story to tell.”
“Being in Division II allowed me to actually have a voice,” Corigliano said. “I value DII athletics and know how important it was in helping me become who I am today. I’m here because of DII.”