An Airman never quits: Fit to fight

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Rusty Frank
  • 52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Editor's note: This is the third of a three-part series of an Airman's resiliency to become fit to fight.

"Do yourself a favor, and realize that there's no technique in the world that will save you. There are no pills, no secrets, no passwords on the path to greatness. You've got to embrace the pain, push the threshold, and feel the suck, and then you've got to muster the courage to go back six times a week."
-Jon Gilson, athlete.

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. India Smith, 372nd Training Squadron Detachment 17 NCO in charge of knowledge operations, started a fitness challenge six months ago. Since then, she challenged herself physically and pushing herself through adversity to achieve her goal of scoring in the "excellent" category on her physical fitness test.

"More than a couple of times in the last six months I have said 'You know what?  It's just easier to be fat and out of shape, I just want to go back to doing that'," she said. "Normally about the time I start saying that, people start saying 'Nope, lets go to the gym right now. Change, we're going.' My support group really hasn't given a chance for my motivation to fall completely."

Recently, Smith passed a PT test, even though she couldn't take the full fitness exam due to aggravating an old foot injury and not being fully cleared by her doctor for her asthma.

"I feel good," she said. "I'm glad that it's done and over with. I'm still disappointed that I didn't push for the run, but listening to the doctor makes sense, and injuring myself where it goes on my permanent record is not a good idea. Six more months and I will push for the run then."

Not letting her injury get the better of her, Smith did make improvements in the other components of the test.

"I'm extremely happy that I finally broke the 53 sit-up curse," she said. "All of my practice tests, I've hit exactly 53 with a max of 54. I was really happy that I finally hit the max.  I went up on push-ups by eight with an overall of 35."

However, improving on her PT test is not the only change she has noticed. Smith said in the last six months she lost 18 pounds and 40 inches on her overall measurements. As well as gaining a renewed interest in other parts of her life.

"I've also noticed that I actually enjoy doing a lot of things that I never would have been doing," she said. "Particularly over here in Germany when there is so much to see and do outside. Six to eight months ago, I don't think I would be voluntarily going on 15-kilometer hikes just to see the sights; I would have been like 'Can I drive to the look out?' Now, it's going to be tough, let's go do it just to do it."

In the last six months, Smith said she noticed improvements in her fitness to be a better overall Airman.

"With spiritually fit, the changes in my eating habits sI've learned to be more in tune with my body," she said. "For mentally fit, I have more motivation and more determination knowing that I'm going to hit challenges that I can knock out of the park. With socially fit, I've made a lot of friends through my support group who have helped me out going through this challenge."

Completely changing her lifestyle not only affected her, but has left an impact on her family life as well, she said.

"I go to the gym with her to help support her," said Jesse Smith, her husband. "I've noticed that I actually have slimmed down and some of my older clothes are fitting again. I can actually run a lot faster and longer than I used to and, with even lifting weights, I'm stronger than I was."

The last six months have provided a tool for Smith to help mentor Airmen who also may be struggling with adversity.

"I think that's going to make me a stronger leader and Airman because things are going to be hard," she said.  "But having the right people around you, knowing when to ask for help and where to look for help is an important part of growing as a person."