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The JAG Corps's Ninja Warrior

 

An Interview with Captain Jeri D'Aurelio

 
 
   
   
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(Courtesy: CPT D'Aurelio)

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Captain D’Aurelio is currently a Trial Defense Service attorney in Alaska. She has competed in multiple seasons of Ninja Warrior. Below is a recent interview The Army Lawyer conducted with her about her path to being five-time selection to the show.

How did you get into Ninja Warrior competition?: I grew up climbing on everything. I built a very simple treehouse that could only be reached by rope. You had to sit on this horizontal stick and hoist yourself up with just your arms by pulling down on the other end of the rope. It was quite a climb. I was a competitive gymnast from about age 2 until I was 12. My parents saw it as something that would teach us what it means to be dedicated at a very young age and would also help us in developing full body coordination. They got us all into it for that aspect, but then my sister and I sort of took off and ran with it. We probably trained about five hours a day. We homeschooled and “co-opted” with other gymnasts so we could train on a schedule that worked.

What other sports did you do?: In high school, I played soccer, ran track and cross-country, and competed in wrestling, among numerous other Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) sports. In college, I competed in triathlons and did a few half marathons and 100-mile bike races. Right after college, I took a year off to get licensed in skydiving. Now, I mainly rock climb and snowboard.

Are you an adrenaline junky?: People say that, but I don’t think so. I am careful by making sure I’m aware of the risk involved and then taking the smartest approach. Sometimes that means more training, more research, or even just better gear. I just want to experience what life has to offer.

When did you decide to join the Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) Corps?: In high school, I did Army JROTC and loved it. I went to the University of Texas at Dallas and studied criminology, and decided afterward to go to law school. While I was in school (at Southern Methodist University), I saw that someone from the JAG Corps was coming for field screening interviews. Still not knowing what I wanted to do with my life, my career counselor told me to sign up and just ask questions. Major Patrick Crocker interviewed me, and that interview was eye-opening. I mean, I was hooked. I knew coming out of the interview that this is what I wanted to do with my law degree.

You have been on Ninja Warrior for five seasons. Do people treat you like a celebrity?: I try to keep them separate as much as possible, doing the Ninja competitions versus my work in the Army. At first, I told my leaders that I was just doing obstacle competitions when I’d take leave, and they were like, “Uh, OK. Whatever.” But then the more seasons I competed in, the harder it was to keep it quiet. Just within the last year or so, people have started recognizing me. But, I did a pretty good job at not bringing it up. When I was deployed to Afghanistan, the gate guards from the Bosnian Army recognized me. I guess Ninja is really popular over there. That’s the first time a lot of the 4th Infantry Division (4ID) Soldiers I worked with even learned about it; the foreign soldiers outed me.

Are you going to compete again in any more Ninja competitions?: I will be applying for a sixth season. Last season, when I fell on the eighth obstacle, it was the farthest I’d made it on a course. In the Cincinnati region, I was thirteenth all-around (men and women), out of roughly 120 competitors. Applications for the new season are due early December, but we only find out if we have been chosen to compete a few weeks before the competition. They only take thirty percent of return competitors, so we will see. There are so many awesome competitors out there. But if I am accepted, I will start really gearing my training towards Ninja-like movement.