From the January/February issue of the Rinksider:

Roller Derby: You can bet on the Bettie Brigade

By Pamela Kleibrink Thompson

Female soldiers and airmen have practiced close order drill on the parade ground at Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM) in Washington for years. But since 2010, some have practiced tactical maneuvers at the roller rink in the Army Family Covenant Arena (AFC Arena). The Bette Brigade is an all female roller derby league composed of military service members, reservists, veterans, dependents, and Department of Defense civilians.

Founded by Sarah Howard in October 2010, the first practice had 10 skaters. Currently there are about 60 active skaters and volunteers, ranging in age from seven to mid forties. They also have a group of 10 newer skaters called The Belle Ringers, who are being coached so they can pass the WFTDA (Women’s Flat Track Derby Association) skills, scrimmage and written rules tests to become rosterable.

“The Betties are a group of strong, independent women from within the military community who have found a home away from home on the track,” notes current president Adrianne Pavlik. “These women can rely on eachother and form bonds, which can often be difficult with the constant moving military families face. Derby can be a supportive environment while rebuilding and reestablishing at a new base.” Women involved in roller derby find that it instills confidence and gives them something fun on which to focus.

Roller derby team members use nicknames to display their individuality. The Betties include Zombie-Hunt-Her, Maul-E, Anna Mosity, Bruitful Disaster, Trauma Queen, Dis-Orient-Her, Mia Gravedigger, Ida Hit It, DD-Moralizer, Jess in the Box, Foxy Blocker, and Sailor Cherry.

President Pavlik is stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord with her husband, CW2 (Chief Warrant Officer) Brian Pavlik, a Chinook helicopter pilot for the Army, and her son Mathew, 2.  “My close family called me Annie Mae growing up, so my husband came up with the play on words for my derby name.” Pavlik’s moniker is Annie Mae-Hem.
The team practices at the recently remodeled and renamed Army Family Covenant Arena (formerly Summit Arena). The AFC Arena is different than other rinks because when a team comes to play a match at the AFC Arena, the Bettie Brigade’s home, they have to obtain passes from the guard at the gate of the military base.

“We are fortunate to have a rink on base and grateful to practice in a beautiful and renovated facility,” states Pavlik. The Bettie Brigade has played the Toxic 253 at Wheelz Skate Arena in Fircrest and the Oly Rollers Bella Donnas at Skateland in Olympia, and they recently bouted at Centralia Rollerdrome. In 2012, the Bettie Brigade played teams such as the Tacoma Dockyard’s Femme Fiannas, winning the season opening match.

The team upholds their team spirit off the rink by participating in numerous volunteer activities to show their support for the JBLM community and surrounding areas. “Our primary community partnership is Joint Base Lewis-McChord. The Betties have also been a part of Tacoma’s Rock & Rally for the Troops, a fundraiser for Operation Ward 57, for the past several years. Also, the juniors participated in a bout to raise funds for the Wounded Warrior Project in November 2013,” shares Pavlik. 

In spring of 2011, the Bettie Brigade added a junior league for girls 7 to 17 called the Bettie Bratz. Jamie Overson Hudson encouraged her daughter to join the Bratz. ”The one thing I enjoy most about being a parent of a Bettie Brat is the camaraderie among the juniors. Being part of a military community, friends come and go. I wanted my daughter (Up ‘N Overson) to have a supportive place to go during the hardships army life throws at us.”

Roller derby provides a place where both women and girls learn to work on a team, gain strength and make good friends. Pavlik sums it all up: “Roller derby and the Bettie Brigade has been a great outlet for me, especially as a stay-at-home mother relatively new to the area. The league has also been a great place to forge new friendships on base. I know that I can rely on my teammates both on and off the track.”