JOINT BASE MYER-HENDERSON HALL, Va.—A multitude of success runs through the veins and fingertips of U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Megan Lomonof ’05. A superior aptitude in music opened the door to superior martial arts mastery.

The Chicago-area native believes her involvement as a flutist in The U.S. Army Band “Pershing’s Own” led to exceptional achievement as a hand-to-hand combatant. In a matter of over three years, Lomonof has become a purple belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu while performing with The U.S. Army Ceremonial Band.

“I found out what jiu-jitsu was from the combatives portion in basic training,” she said. “I’d wanted to sign up (for jiu-jitsu training) on my own for a couple of years before I did. I just had to work up the guts to show up and do it. I finally did it in December of 2009.”

Lomonof is based at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, a military base which is adjacent to Arlington National Cemetery and is the home to many ceremonial soldiers and servicemembers.

The well-spoken and well-rehearsed Lomonof attended the all-female Mother McAuley Liberal Arts High School in Chicago, known for its winning volleyball program and the academic home of model-actress Jenny McCarthy. She graduated from Illinois State University with a degree in music education.

Lomonof’s master’s degree was earned from the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music in flute performance. Long before her hectic schedule of rehearsal times at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall’s Brucker Hall and ceremonial performances inside Arlington National Cemetery, Lomonof felt the need to perfect melodies with a woodwind instrument.

“I started studying music when I was very young,” she said. “As far as I can remember, I was banging on the piano, and I started taking lessons when I was five. I started [with] the flute when I was 10–in fourth grade–and, I loved it. It was the hardest thing I knew (to do). Because it was the most difficult and I wanted a challenge, I majored in it (during college).”

Balancing the schedule

In April, Lomonof finished second in the fly-lightweight division of the 2013 Joint Force Headquarters-National Capital Region and Military District of Washington Combatives Tournament. More martial arts tournaments are on the horizon. The weekend of May 3, she traveled to Texas for the Dallas International Open IBJJF Championship, and in June, Lomonof was registered to compete at the World Jiu-Jitsu Championship in Newport Beach, California.

Her schedule is configured around preparing for those tourneys and a constant juggling of practice sessions involving music and the use of muscle.

“I’m in the ceremonial band, and we get our schedules a couple days in advance, and the gym I go to has classes throughout the day,” Lomonof said. “So whenever I’m not scheduled to work, I make it happen where I get to the gym. One Monday, I was at the gym three times, and I had three training sessions. The next Tuesday, I was there twice. I go there as much as possible. Especially now with some tournaments coming up that I want to prepare for.”

In 2011, Lomonof qualified for a trip to the world championships in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. She says that experience greatly influenced her combatives future.

“I got immersed in the culture,” she said.

Conversations involving fitness and sports participation lead to training and performance philosophies, and Lomonof’s mental outlook toward jiu-jitsu is directly tied to her musical success. Her words could also qualify her as an above-average motivational speaker.

“What is very interesting is that I noticed—and it is true with me and I noticed it with other people—is that anybody that has gotten to a high level in one thing and understands the learning process can use the skill of learning in almost any other area,” Lomonof said. “So my experience in music helped me learn a little bit more quickly in jiu-jitsu. While the skills seem completely different, (they) actually tie in together very harmoniously.

“It is way more academic than people give it credit for,” she said of the martial art, where leverage, reverses, and escapes are paramount for success.

“Some of the best jiu-jitsu practitioners I know are also some (of) the smartest people I know. The same goes for music or any art- or skill-based activity.”

The story was originally published in the Pentagram, the newspaper for Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall. The author, Pentagram Staff Writer Jim Dresbach, graduated from Illinois State in 1983.