Lt. Luke Cuneo Talks About Turning CrossFit into a Career with the US Military
For Lt. Luke Cuneo, joining the United States Army all started out as a way to pay for his college degree.
Seven years later, the 27-year-old former college football cornerback from Furman University is living his dream job: Cuneo gets all of the perks of being in the Army, all the while getting paid to workout and compete in CrossFit.
The details: Cuneo is a member of the Army Warrior Fitness Team, whose job it is to stay fit and compete in various CrossFit (or Strongmen) competitions.
- The Army Warrior Fitness Team was created in 2019 with the goal of expanding the Army’s recruiting efforts into the ever-growing functional fitness world, all the while highlighting the various jobs and lifestyle opportunities the United States Army provides.
- The initiative was immediately successful in its efforts to recruit some of the fittest athletes in the military, including CrossFit Games athlete Chandler Smith.
- “We show up at different competitions to show future recruits the different opportunities that you can pursue in the Army, and we also support big CrossFit events and interact with local people,” Cuneo explained, adding that their next stop is Madison, WI this week.
- For Cuneo, who enlisted with the military at the age of 20 and later commissioned as a Army Commissioned Officer through his school’s Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program, his career kills two birds with one stone: He gets to pursue his passion for fitness with his passion for leadership, all the while serving his country. “If you told me when I was in college that I would be doing this I never would have believed it…I love what I do,” he said.
Worth Noting: The U.S. Army’s Warrior Fitness team is one of six recruiting outreach teams that allows soldiers to pursue a passion while serving. Other teams include the Esports team, The Outdoor Team, the “As You Were” rock band, the Army Parachute Team, and the Army Marksmanship Unit.
Inspired by Chandler Smith
It was actually Smith who inspired Cuneo to take CrossFit more seriously.
Cuneo met Smith during his infantry training in 2019, and the two started training together “every single day,” Cuneo said. “He kind of lit a fire under me to pursue it competitively.”
Shortly after this, Cuneo found out about the existence of the Army Warrior Fitness Team and knew it could be his ticket to fulfill his military duties all the while getting as fit as he could. So he tried out for and made the team in 2021.
Since then, Cuneo has been stationed in Fort Knox, KY with his teammates, who train together twice a day in and around their other military duties, including administrative and recruiting duties.
“We show up and we train to be the best athletes we can, but we also try to be creative and come up with different ways we can present ourselves to be assets to the Army,” Cuneo explained.
Cuneo’s CrossFit Success
Since falling in love with CrossFit after taking a class at a small gym in North Carolina—and continuing to get fit alongside his Army teammates—Cuneo has managed to become a force to be reckoned with in the sport.
He competed with the Jump Ship Kailua team at the 2021 CrossFit Mid-Atlantic Challenge Semifinals in Knoxville, TN, and more recently, this season, he competed as an individual and placed a respectable 181st in North America in the Quarterfinals, narrowly missing qualifying to Semifinals.
Though Cuneos’ goal isn’t necessarily to become a Games athlete, he does want to make a Semifinals push.
“I have made relationships with people who will be lifelong friends.”
“I wanted to be a Regionals athlete before, but now that it’s the Semifinals I would love to get there. That has always been my goal,” he said.
More importantly, though, the experience on the Army Warrior Fitness Team so far has allowed him to pursue a high level of fitness all the while doing something valuable for his country with people that he loves.
“They’re some of my best friends,” he said of his teammates. “I have made relationships with people who will be lifelong friends.”
For any men and women who are into fitness or CrossFit, Cuneo insists the military is a great career option, one that allows you to do it all.
“There are so many opportunities that people don’t realize in the Army. People think you go into it and you do a combat job. But you can go in and be a dentist, or a nurse, or do fitness,” Cuneo said.
He added: “There are so many different things you can do. If you want to start your career on the right path, it’s a great way to do it…There’s no better way to do it.”