Capt. Felicia Heisler usually finishes at the head of her class in triathlons.
She’ll graduate Friday from the Command and General Staff School. During her four months at Redstone, she entered three local triathlons.
And she won them all.
Heisler was the first female finisher overall in the Huntsville Sprint Triathlon, Aug. 10; the Tri for Ole Glory, July 4 at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center; and the Wet Dog, June 15 at Point Mallard Park in Decatur.
“I do it to stay healthy, to stay mentally, physically and emotionally competitive,” Heisler, 41, from Fort Wayne, Indiana, said. “I just do it to stay alive in all facets of life. It makes me a better mom, it makes me a better wife and it certainly makes me a better leader.”
The avid runner and endurance athlete finished two of her sports’ pinnacle events within a year before she arrived at Redstone in May. She finished the Boston Marathon, April 15 in 3 hours and 41 minutes. She finished the Ironman World Championship, Oct. 13 in Kona, Hawaii, in 12 hours and 30 minutes. That included a 2.4 mile swim (1:22), a 112 mile bike (5:53) and a marathon (5:07).
She actually ran the Boston Marathon with an injury. “But I’m healed now so Chicago (Marathon on Oct. 13) should be great,” she said.
After graduating from the Command and General Staff Officer Course, the communications officer will be assigned to the 31st Artillery Defense Brigade at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. She served as the cyber protection officer for the Defense Information Agency at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, from 2015-19.
Heisler has enjoyed her time in the Huntsville community. “The community is outstanding. I tell you I could retire here,” she said.
She has definitely scored high in local sports.
“It gives you confidence in every other avenue of life. It gives you confidence knowing that you can attain anything if you’re willing to work for it,” she said. “So it’s a reflection of how I approach life. It’s a reflection of the effort that you’re willing to put into something.”
Heisler considers swimming as her most difficult event because she never took swimming lessons as a child. She learned to swim in the Army while competing for the German Army Proficiency Badge at the basic officer leadership course as a second lieutenant in 2008 at Fort Gordon, Georgia. She subsequently earned three of the badges.
Her athletic interest began in the sixth grade when she started running cross country at Lakeside Middle School at Fort Wayne. She was the sixth of 11 children so “joining the military was easy because I’m used to standing in line to eat and get your plate,” she said.
She has been in the Army 18 years. Heisler earned her commission through officer candidate school in 2008 after seven years as an enlisted Soldier. She deployed to Kuwait in 2012-13 as a company commander for strategic signal support for the theater; based in Kuwait this included going into Afghanistan. She said she plans to serve at least 25 years.
“But I do aspire to share my passion for fitness after I get out. I want to become a trainer. I want to start a youth program that introduces fitness to youth as well as adults. Fitness, nutrition, health in general,” she said. “I feel a calling in that area.”
She and her husband of 10 years, John, have a son, Luke, 9, and a daughter, Summer, 8.
Heisler said her most influential leaders have included her older sister Katrina Johnson, a retired first sergeant residing in Williamsburg, Virginia; her coach Kristen Osborn of Oahu, Hawaii; Marine Col. Joseph Delaney, of Marine Corps Forces of the Pacific in Oahu; and Mary and Daryl McClure, both retired master sergeants in Huntsville who inspired her as a signal officer.
She plans to run the Boston Marathon again in 2021 and race internationally for Team USA in the triathlon for the women’s age group 40-45 in 2020.