An Airman never quits: A fight to stay fit

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany - -- Editor's note: This is the second of a three- part series of an Airman's resiliency to become fit to fight.

"Whenever you see a successful person, you only see the public glories, never the private sacrifices to reach them." This inspiring quote by poet Vaibhav Shah is something U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. India Smith, 372nd Training Squadron Detachment 17 NCO in charge of knowledge operations, has lived by since Jan. 27, 2014. It was on that day she failed her last physical fitness test.

Her unit physical training leader recalled that day.

"I can remember when she first failed her fitness test, she came into my office and said, 'I am not doing combat fitness, I don't run, I have asthma'," said Tech. Sgt. Mark Salzman, 372nd TRS Det. 17 F-16 section chief.

Six months later the excuses have stopped, Smith spends every day going to the Combat Fitness Center, sweating many hours to reach and exceed her goals.

"I'm looking forward to taking my PT test next month, I'm pretty sure I'm going to get a 90 on it," she said. "I've been able to complete a full "Murph" exercise, and I'm down two dress sizes, with two left to get to my final goal."

Along with exceeding her personal goals, she has noticed a change in her health over the last several months.

"My asthma inhaler is a thing of the past," she said. "I actually haven't used it in three or four months. Having gone from the crutch of 'I won't cardio because I have asthma' to doing some of the workouts that I do without touching my inhaler is pretty nice for me."

It was this newfound confidence that really impressed Salzman.

"She has such a positive attitude towards her goals," he said. "She knows she can do it with hard work, and she does it."

All of this success Smith experienced came with a price. Smith said some of the obstacles she overcame were major shin splints and spending a week in the hospital, recovering from an infection.

She couldn't overcome all this adversity without the help of members of her unit and PTL, but there is one person that is always there for her.

"Jesse has been my rock through all of this," she said of her husband a civilian.

Jesse has changed a lot of his ways to help support his wife.

"I go along with the eating changes," said her husband. "I go most days and work out with her, that way she knows she is not alone."

This workout challenge has provided a way for Smith to stay not just physically fit, but spiritually, socially and mentally as well.

"Obviously the physically fit by staying with it and watching strength and endurance go up," she said. "For mentally fit, there are days that if I don't get my work out in, I'm the grouchiest person in the world. For spiritually, as part of working out more and eating better, is I've had to calm down, think, focus and mediate more. With socially fit, I've made a lot friends just by going to the workouts."

Smith said this experience has provided her a new tool to mentor somebody who could be struggling with physical fitness.

"I now feel that having been on that side, and forcing myself to make the conscious decision, will better enable me to mentor others going through the struggle, because I understand the emotional and physical pain involved in stressing over the possibility of it being a career ending risk," she said.