By Air Force Tech. Sgt. Bob Jennings
Defense Information School
Air Force Staff Sgt. Veronica Montes, a Basic Photojournalist Course-USAF instructor at the Defense Information School, punches a heavy bag Sept. 13, 2016, in the combative rooms of the Gaffney Fitness Center on Fort Meade, Md. Montes studies the Israeli martial art Krav Maga, which focuses on aggressively disabling an attacker so the victim can escape.
Veronica Montes is a stone-cold killer.
Inside her small, unassuming frame beats the heart of a lion. Behind her ginger hair, freckles and constant smile lies an alert, focused machine capable of taking down opponents twice her size. With her bare hands.
What makes such a slight, happy person so deadly? Montes studies the Israeli martial art Krav Maga.
Air Force Staff Sgt. Veronica Montes is a Basic Photojournalist Course-USAF instructor at the Defense Information School here, and she’s been studying Krav Maga for a year and a half, both to stay fit and keep herself safe.
“I love the (Ultimate Fighting Championship) fights,” Montes said. “I really like fighting, I like boxing, stuff like that. So I’ve always wanted to learn how to do it.”
She said she looked into multiple other styles of martial arts before settling on Krav Maga.
“There was a gym that opened up in Spokane, Washington – where I was – that was a Krav Maga gym,” she said. “(The gym staff) were doing a couple of promotional things, trying to get it going more and gain more people. So, I went down there to check it out, and I really liked it right away.”
Despite Montes’ typically jolly demeanor, she studies an extremely violent art. Krav Maga was developed for the Israeli Defense Force and is a combination of several other martial arts with a focus on real-world situations.
“Level one is mostly a lot of punches, like hammer fists, different kicks, elbows, knees,” she said. “You’re supposed to be really aggressive to get someone away from you.”
Part of the appeal, she said, stems from Krav Maga being actor Jason Statham’s go-to martial art in his action films.
“I pretend that’s what I look like,” she said, laughing. “But I don’t. But in my mind, I do.”
In addition to fighting like Jason Statham, class participants embrace a strong fitness component and train for real-world scenarios. Instructors teach youth anti-bullying classes and hold active shooter seminars where participants are taught how to defend themselves from real threats.
“They try to do really realistic situations,” Montes said.
That’s something Montes’ husband, Air Force Staff Sgt. Alex Montes, a photojournalist with the 70th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Wing here, appreciates.
“It gives her another skill; in case she’s on the street or out by herself or anything like that, she can defend herself,” he said, “which is good.”
Alex, who is often his wife’s sparring partner, studies Brazilian jujitsu, which focuses more on grappling than striking.
“I’m a little bit stronger,” Alex said. “So, when we start doing ground work, she’ll kind of joke around. She’ll be like, ‘OK,’ and she’ll tap. Then I’ll stand up, and she’ll attack me without telling me. It’s kind of like her … technique.”
Smiling, Alex admitted with a sigh that his wife could probably take him.
“If she sneak-attacks me,” he was quick to add.
Montes said she is currently at level two in her training and hopes to move up to level three soon. At her gym, she can go as high as level five, which means she will only be better-prepared.
Despite her never-ending smiles and rapid-fire, excited speech, one thing is clear to those who know her: You don’t mess with the Montes.