MacDill Airman inducted into hall of honor at alma mater
During the late 1980s at a small liberal arts college in Springfield, Ohio, a young man with the style of an experienced swimmer brought his skills and talent to the school swim team and set records that still stand today.
Now, a chaplain in the air Force, the Airman received the opportunity to stroll down memory lane when he was notified he was being inducted into the athletic hall of honor at his alma mater, Wittenberg University.
"When I found out I was being inducted I was very honored and excited," said Chaplain (Maj.) Paul Sutter, 6th Air Mobility Wing Protestant chaplain. "It brought back a lot of memories for me.”
The chaplain's history with swimming goes so far back before college that it's understandable why he was able to set records.
As a child, a large part of his life revolved around water. He began swimming when he was a small boy and took lessons at a nearby YMCA in Sandusky, Ohio.
"I grew up on the shores of Lake Erie and spent a lot of time at beaches and community pools," the major said. "I started competitive swimming in seventh grade."
From there, the awards started rolling in and the chaplain won many first place ribbons. He then played water polo in high school. So when Maj. Sutter entered college, his skills had been honed and he was ready for the big leagues.
"Paul was a great addition to our swim program and a real leader," said Mr. Steven Dawson, former Wittenberg University swim coach. "Although swimming is about as tough a sport as there is in college, Paul was very motivated."
Chaplain Sutter said although his mother and father were his main role models, he also looked up to his swim coaches and Boy Scout leader and gives them a lot of credit for his successes.
While at Wittenberg the major was able to pull off being named most valuable player of his team three years in a row. He said he swam the 500, 1,000 and 1,650 yard freestyle.
"Paul is a competitor in everything he does, although he kept it all in perspective, you have to have committed athletes that are talented to achieve winning goals," said Mr. Dawson, adding that Maj. Sutter only had a few quirks to work out when he entered college.
"He was already at (good) swimmer, but needed to work on his endurance and understanding of how to swim the longer races required in college," said Mr. Dawson.
"Overall, it was a pleasure to coach him and to be able to see how he developed as a person and a family man," he added.
Speaking of family, the chaplain now has three little swimmers of his own.
"I have four sons ages 12, 8, 5 and 3," he said. "The two oldest are swimming on the Interbay Swim Team. My five-year-old does a good job keeping up with them and just last week, my three-year-old started swimming with the aid of a floatation belt."
Although the chaplain loves swimming, he said these days the only sports he plays are the ones his children want to play.
For Airmen wishing to reach their goals and achieve titles like he did in college, the chaplain said they must exert self discipline, patience and practice, but most of all enjoy what they're doing.
Although Chaplain Sutter said he loved swimming, he did not plan to join the swim team in college. However, during his senior year in high school, he became very ill with mononucleosis and it ended his swimming career just as his team entered district finals. He said the stunted season filled him with the desire to swim in college and the rest is history.