Only to the extent that we
Expose ourselves over and over to annihilation
Can that which is indestructible in us
TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – On Oct. 6, in the arid, unforgiving climate of Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada’s Las Vegas Valley, 18 U.S. Air Force representatives gathered to compete in the 2017 military iteration of the Alpha Warrior Competition.
The competition, a grueling obstacle course aimed at motivating fitness and encouraging friendly competition between service members, boasted a top-tier roster of military athletes from Edwards Air Force Base, California; Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada; Vandenburg Air Force Base, California and Travis Air Force Base, California.
To qualify, Travis Airmen were subjected to a full fitness test including push-ups, pull-ups, air squats and knee-to-chests. The fastest Airmen who were able to complete the test reserved a spot to compete at Nellis AFB on the Battle Rig, a maze of metal pipes and obstacles designed to test a competitor’s grip and upper body strength.
One of the qualifiers, 2nd Lt. Stephanie Woolman, 60th Inpatient Squadron clinical nurse, was excited to learn of the competition and the nature of the fitness test meant to simulate its rigors.
“I didn't even know (the Alpha Warrior Competition) existed until about three days before I went to try out for it,” said Woolman. “Needless to say, I was stoked when I found out what the tryouts entailed because I knew that I would be able to do what they wanted us to do to compete.”
Woolman said working at David Grant USAF Medical Center has helped motivate her to not only stay fit to accomplish her specific mission, but to also strive for an excellence beyond what her job in the military requires and to represent Travis on a national stage.
“Too many times, I have been reminded of patients who would like nothing more than to go for a run, swim, bike, simply lift weights or go for a walk, but whatever is going on in his or her life, many times, things that none of them asked for and happened out of the blue, whether that be health issues or a physical ailment, they are unable to do the things my very capable body can do,” said Woolman. “Also, I know that literally I could wake up one day and no longer be able to do the things that I love. I never want to live with regrets. Much of the time, my motivation is them.”
Although Team Travis didn’t progress to the Alpha Warrior finals in San Antonio, Texas, the results of the competition proved that Travis Airmen were well-represented as a force which demonstrates Air Force’s philosophy of warrior ethos.
Woolman said the Airmen who participated walked away with something more valuable than a trophy: lessons and the humility to learn from them.
“I walked away with motivation to want to be more well-rounded in my fitness,” said Woolman. “I have cardio down to a T, but not being able to complete this course was a massive strike to my ego. It helped me take away that you cannot be great at something that you do not put in the time or practice to perfect. I definitely gained the humility in knowing there are still areas of my fitness that could use some work.”
Although Airmen like Woolman represent what it means to internalize the Air Force’s warrior ethos, it’s important to consider those Airmen who struggle in the physical aspect of their comprehensive Airman fitness, said Airman 1st Class Elizabeth Wenner, 60th Medical Operations Squadron pharmacy technician.
“Even when we struggle to run that mile-and-a-half or do enough pushups or even pass our (physical training) test, we have six months to improve on it,” said Wenner. “Imagine what other things you could accomplish in six months.”
Wenner, whose pharmacy recently participated in a Spartan Race in Sacramento, California, believes fitness is as much about the strength of the Air Force as a whole as it is about the strength of the individual.
“The tools and people I work with have absolutely made me a stronger person and Airman,” said Wenner. “I am a firm believer you work and succeed as a team and no success is solely done from you alone. I am so fortunate to have the tools and people that have made me a stronger person and Airman so far in my career.”
For Woolman, the strength built over the course of an active life offers an opportunity to both encourage others and, in turn, be encouraged by their progress.
“The Air Force succeeds when the velocity of all our seemingly tiny victories among all our seemingly tiny roles compound into the effectiveness of the world’s greatest Air Force,” said Woolman.
As the sun set over the Las Vegas Valley and so, too, on Team Travis’ trip there, Woolman was afforded a moment to reflect on her role in the Air Force, her thankfulness for those who came before her who set the standards by which she holds herself to and, ultimately, her hope for what tomorrow’s Airmen will bring to the fight.
“We need to understand that those who came before us were some of the greatest heroes and warriors that this world has ever seen,” said Woolman. “We are held to the same standard they were. The nation counted on them and it now counts on us to be physically fit enough to protect them both inside and outside of America's borders. If we are unable to do that, then we are doing an injustice to those who came before us. We have to have the energy and the capability to go beyond what the standards are; to excel.”