Through Triumph and Tragedy, Katherine Portillo Exemplifies Perseverance


When Katherine Portillo enlisted in the USA Air Drive, she was doing greater than serving her country. She was additionally following within the footsteps of her previous members of the family who’ve additionally dedicated to the identical trigger. Whereas rising up in Belize, there wasn’t a lot give attention to training or self-improvement. So whereas she didn’t see her father a lot, he was the instance who she realized from when she did see him.

“My dad was in World Conflict II as a pilot teacher, very briefly,” Portillo stated. “He at all times talked about serving and patriotism. He was at all times the one who instilled in me that I ought to be part of and observe in his footsteps simply due to the distinction of serving, and the entire advantages as nicely.”

Katherine Portillo enlisted in 1996, and she or he started her profession as a provide journeyman. Her efforts have been making profound variations early on, which was acknowledged by her receiving the 1997 Airman of the 12 months award for the forty second Provide Squadron. She acquired quite a few honors all through her profession, however the first proud second that got here to her reminiscence was straightforward to recall.

“The purpose that I spotted that I felt proud was after I placed on the uniform, and I used to be there to be of service,” she recalled. In 2005 she acquired a fee by the Reserve Officer Coaching Corps and was reassigned as a Area and Missiles Techniques officer. She was assigned to the 3d Area Operations Squadron at Schriever Air Drive Base, Colorado, the place she executed duties as a satellite tv for pc techniques operator, satellite tv for pc car operator, squadron government officer and chief of the Defense Satellite Control System orbital evaluation part.

By 2009, Portillo was named a captain. At this level in her profession, the work she was doing grew to become way more significant.

“Stepping into, it was extra about what service can do for me. As soon as I grew to become a captain, I spotted that it wasn’t about what the service can do for me, however what I can do for my nation.”

With that mindset, Portillo carried on with a number of different missions, together with at one level being assigned to Kyrgyzstan for assist of Operation Enduring Freedom. One thing else that Portillo excelled at was health, which was very totally different than when she was rising up in Belize.

“I grew up on a small island [in Belize] the place there have been no main sporting actions for us in highschool on the time,” she says. “I ran on the small airstrip to drop pounds since I used to be advised my butt was greater than the opposite ladies.”

That modified when she started her army profession. Katherine Portillo maintained “glorious” scores when she took half in Air Drive health exams. She additionally ran quite a few 5k, 10k, half-marathons, triathlons, and likewise two full marathons. She would additionally begin coaching for physique competitions as a result of she didn’t like the way in which runners regarded. She was inspired to compete by IFBB Professional 212 competitor Luis Santa.

“Luis bought me into it. We have been all stationed at Schriever Air Drive Base ” she stated. “He and his spouse have been those to information me by the method and gave me the itch.”

Her husband, Pavel Ythjall, was a photographer within the health trade as nicely. With that mixture of assist, Portillo would enter the NPC Bikini division in 2011 by successful the California State Championships. By 2012, she had already received her professional card due to her victory in that yr’s Junior Nationals. Her first and solely contest as a professional was in that yr’s Los Angeles Grand Prix, the place she completed in ninth place. She encourages health fans who’re excited about competing sometime to go all in.

“Undoubtedly attempt it, and show to your self. If you wish to compete, or if you wish to set any objective, you are able to do it,” she stated. “Don’t doubt your self and quit proper earlier than, both. We really doubt ourselves proper earlier than we hit the mark. I went by that as nicely. Belief your coach and belief the method of the weight loss program and exercise you adopted. Stick to the plan and the coach so you may hit that stage. Even in case you don’t win, simply reaching the objective builds confidence.”

Courtesy of Katherine Partillo

Life-Altering Accident

Whereas Katherine Portillo was thriving in each of her careers and passions, an unlucky incident altered the programs of each in addition to her life. Portillo and her husband have been in a vehicular accident that resulted in her being fully paralyzed from the neck down. Pavel additionally sustained severe accidents. Even within the midst of such an intense second, Portillo relied on her army coaching to assist her transfer ahead.

“Staying assured and calm was vital. Even when it occurred, I needed to take cost of the scene,” Portillo recalled. “That one thing they train you within the army. You need to take cost of the scene.”

Katherine Portillo did simply that by assessing the environment, calling 911, and being as educated as attainable concerning her environment in such a traumatic second. She discovered herself doing it once more when she awoke within the hospital.

“Group has been large in serving to my mindset. As quickly as I awoke from my coma, I needed to orient myself,” she defined. “Time, house, the nurses, for instance, I had to verify I had a deal with on schedules, taking medicine, simply getting my thoughts organized at first helped.”

Portillo’s story was traumatic for each herself and Pavel, however Pavel discovered a solution to turn a negative into a positive. He wrote a e book about their journey that has already made a profound affect on others since its launch in November of 2021. “True Love & Struggling” is Pavel’s firsthand account of their lives and chronicles their journey since their life-altering accident.

“It was his solution to vent about the whole lot we had been by. It was his method of sharing the problem of the trauma that affected his household and his private life,” Portillo stated. “Hopefully it should assist others which might be going by their very own processes.”

Regardless of looking for methods to renew her profession, Portillo was discharged with honors after an 18-year profession within the Air Drive. Whereas she is now not on lively responsibility, the abilities and mindset that she picked up from her service have stayed along with her.

“I’ve to take cost of my caregivers’ schedule, getting groceries, no matter. I nonetheless have that mentality of ‘take cost,’” she stated. She additionally had recommendation for those who are dreaming of huge objectives in service, health, or some other endeavor they might really feel obsessed with.

“Life is brief, so take motion and achieve the whole lot you may.”

To be taught extra about “True Love & Suffering,” go to



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