Jiu-Jitsu classmates considered Scott Michael Roberson intimidating.
The former Mary Esther resident was about 6 feet 2, 230 pounds of muscle and one of only a handful of blue belts at the Destin Academy of Mixed Martial Arts.
“He looked intimidating, but once you got to know him he was the nicest guy, you know. Very calm, very collected,” said friend and instructor Carlos Diaz.
Roberson, 39, was working as a security officer for the CIA when he was one of seven people killed Dec. 30 in a suicide bomb attack on an outpost in Khost province, Afghanistan.
The CIA would not comment or confirm Roberson’s death, saying the families of the victims needed time to mourn.
Roberson lived in Mary Esther for about four years. He met and married his wife Molly in Fort Walton Beach. The newlyweds’ first child is due in February and the proud parents already had named her Piper.
“Neither of them had family here but they loved the area,” said Brenda Caraballo, co-owner of As You Like it Salon in Mary Esther.
Molly was a stylist at the salon until the Robersons moved to Virginia last summer. She called her friends with news of the tragedy last week.
“It’s been up and down for us here,” Caraballo said.
As a Blackwater security agent, Roberson traveled a lot. When he was home, he would drop by the salon to see Molly and sometimes sneak in a massage.
“They were very, very much in love,” said Jennifer Perlman, the salon’s co-owner.
Roberson graduated from Florida State University in 1992 with a degree in criminology. He started his career with the Atlanta Police Department. Before moving to Mary Esther, he worked undercover in narcotics.
Roberson’s international service started with United Nations security forces in Kosovo and continued with several tours in Iraq, where his duties included providing protection to high-risk officials, according to his obituary. His most recent assignments were in Afghanistan.
A Benny Hill quotation on his Facebook page gave a glimpse of his sense of humor: “Do unto others ... then run.”
Roberson rode his Harley-Davidson with the Iron Pigs Motorcycle Club and loved martial arts.
Diaz said Roberson found Gracie Jiu-Jitsu to be a relaxing pastime. He was extremely focused and dedicated to the training, taking classes as often as he could. He also got one-on-one training and learned tips through e-mail while he was away.
Diaz was at the Robersons’ wedding and saw Molly’s laugh when Roberson included a promise not to keep secrets in his vows.
He also shared some sad moments.
“I trained him the day his mentor in Blackwater was killed,” Diaz said. “That was a sad day, but he did it because he said, ‘If I don’t train, I’ll just be sitting at home wondering all kinds of crazy thoughts so let’s train.’ That’s why I say it was therapeutic for him.”
Diaz recalled one lesson Roberson learned in martial arts. Diaz warned Roberson he would be the largest person in the class and could easily overpower his opponent using brute strength. He also told Roberson that by using his strength to get out of a battle, he would never learn Jiu-Jitsu.
During one match, Roberson was wrapped in one arm by a smaller competitor and got frustrated.
“Scott was able to bicep curl him and stood up with him in one arm,” Diaz said. “So he picks him up then drops him down.”
Roberson then punished himself by kneeling in a corner, like a kid punished in kindergarten, Diaz said.
“He said, ‘Coach, I lost my temper. I wasn’t doing Jiu-Jitsu. I used strength, which you told me not to. I just need to put myself in a timeout and in a few minutes, I’ll be ready to train again.’ ”
Roberson embraced the eastern philosophy he learned in martial arts and learned to take life as it comes, Diaz said.
“He knew what he was doing. He knew the risks involved,” Diaz said. “Everybody talks about living life in the present. He was one of the few people I saw doing that.”
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