Give me strength: 934th Airlift Wing hosts its first strongman competition
Military deployments and training are two different facets of military life that can cause a heavy amount of stress on the servicemembers. One way that Airmen learn to destress is to have a good physical fitness regimen.
Six airmen with uncanny fitness routines committed themselves to the 934th Airlift Wing’s first Strongman Competition hosted in Saint Paul in late April.
Keith Pulliam, the 934th Airlift Wing fitness and sports operations manager and architect of this competition, brought his experience into planning this robust tournament.
“Within my realm, I have to kind of plan out the programs that I want to do for the year,” Pulliam said. “I’ve done [strongman competitions] once with college students. This was different just because of the amount of weight these guys wanted to push. These guys are way stronger.”
For two days, the strongman competitors performed a series of cardio exercises and different weightlifting events.
The first-place trophy went to Jarod Smith, the 133rd Civil Engineering Squadron installation emergency manager. Two Airmen, Maj. Joe Girtz, Detachment Commander of the 210th Engineering Installation Squadron, 133rd Airlift Wing, and Senior Master Sgt. Ryan Kelly, 934th Maintenance Squadron munitions chief, tied for second place.
Kelly knew his competition before he walked through the doors.
“I’ve seen Jarod lift before,” Kelly said. “I just knew he was going to run away with it.”
Regarding the nature of the competition, Kelly said the competitors kept it lighthearted and friendly throughout.
“The only reason I entered the competition was for fun,” Kelly said. “I was happy as long as I gave 100 percent. I knew everyone competing, and they made it worth doing.”
“My first start in powerlifting was in the military,” Smith said. “My best friend used to give me crap all the time, saying I should come. I really got into it. Then I got into competitive powerlifting about three to four years ago.”
Deployment comes with a lot of downtime, Smith said. Powerlifting helped him to keep his mind off the small details, like missing home or the boring aspect of being in a place that isn’t necessarily connected to your personal life.
“It’s that whole Airman concept where we’re in it together,” he said. “On a deployment, it’s not the place we want to be. This kind of helps keep your mind off those things from back home. Then when you get stateside, it’s another thing you can do.”
Like Smith, Kelly finds that lifting heavy weights can be a great way to deal with daily pressure that may make people go a little crazy.
“Personally, lifting is a great stress relief,” he said. “Going in and getting the aggression out really helps. It also feels good to be strong. I can walk around feeling confident in myself.”
Smith reacts similarly to Kelly regarding how the gym helps him feel at ease when dealing with the struggle.
“The biggest thing, I think, is finding your escape,” Smith said. “That’s how you’re going to keep your sanity. Every Airman or Soldier is going to come into different situations where they feel overwhelmed with their workload or even at home.”
Smith said the key to suppressing that anxiety is blocking out all the distractions and giving yourself time to get away.
“You can get into your own atmosphere for an hour or however long it may be; that’s your time to keep yourself mentally ready,” he said. “That’s going to benefit yourself in the long run for you to be able to really sustain yourself.”
When it comes to urging more service members to join, Kelly thinks the key to making the competition successful is keeping the atmosphere the same.
“As long as the attitude doesn’t change, the competition will remain fun,” Kelly said. “Having a bunch of people lifting heavy stuff together and not getting too competitive is a fun time.”
Pulliam has a lot of great ideas about future physical competitions. He had a female and male division for the recent strongman competition, but sadly the female division was dropped due to the lack of participants. The best way to get the most out of these competitions is for high engagement from the service members on base. He said many people who would have usually participated in the competition were ultimately lost due to deployments or things of that nature. Pulliam intends to get the word out on future endeavors using social media.
“I will be creating an Instagram account for the gym,” Pulliam said. “This will be another way for us to put this stuff out there instead of just the posters.”
Senior Airman Matthew Reisdorf
934th Airlift Wing Public Affairs