The "Chaplain's Corner" offers perspectives to enhance spiritual/religious resiliency in support of Air Force and Army Comprehensive Fitness programs.
Comments regarding specific beliefs, practices, or behaviors are strictly those of the author and do not convey endorsement by the U.S. government, the Department of Defense, the Army, the Air Force, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, or the 673d Air Base Wing.
As Air Force Staff Sgt. Ashley Bryant approaches the bench she takes a moment to whisper to herself.
"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me," she said. "I'm nothing without you, but I'm everything with you."
She takes two deep breaths, lies on the bench, clings her chalked hands to the bar carrying six steel plates and waits for the judge's instructions.
"Lift!" he yells.
Bryant, a Tulsa, Oklahoma-native, broke the women's national bench press record with a 231.1 pound lift during a weight-lifting competition in Illinois while home on leave.
She returned here to break her own record at the Dragon Fitness Center by lifting a total of 235 pounds, hours before leaving for deployment."Breaking records isn't necessarily a goal for me," Bryant said after having her picture taken for the gymnasium's "Wall of Fame" - a board that recognizes the most pounds lifted by an individual. "I always go into these competitions, asking 'how can I beat my personal record?'"
The 29-year old emergency actions controller from the 31st Fighter Wing command post started competing in 2004. Her first competition was completed only three months prior to leaving for Air Force basic military training.
"Although I was stationed in Japan after all my training and there weren't many competitions overseas, I continued to train because I still loved powerlifting," she said. "I would look online for meets in the states, take leave, and use my money to fly back to compete. "I remembered how I felt during my first competition after winning, that's when I decided to give this passion my all," she added.
Since joining the military, Bryant has competed in seven additional competitions and has placed first in all of them, to include 'Best Lifter Award.' The award calculates her total weight of 165 to the final amount of pounds she lifted during all three events: bench press, deadlift and squat - 826.1.
Bryant says that the dedication and time she puts into power lifting is the same effort she gives the Air Force, hoping she can continue pursing both for a long time. "Everything I do in life, I give credit to God," Bryant said. "For me, being spiritually fit is just as important as being mentally and physically fit."
Bryant says although some competitive lifters use elaborate equipment and coaching to help them succeed, she prides herself on being able to use only her faith and inner strength. "For me it's just my body, the bar and some chalk," she said smiling.
The norm for this sport is for lifters to be part of a team, but for Bryant, she's the coach and the athlete on a one-woman team. With her success over the years, she will continue the sport because of the way it makes her feel after working hard in the gym. "It puts me in a great mood and allows me to smile a little more during work," she said.
Leaving with a good mood and attitude for her deployment, Bryant defeated her old record to become the first female to join the 600-pound club at Aviano Air Base.
"I'm going to keep pushing myself," she said. "And when I come back to Aviano, I'm going to reach my goal of joining the 1,000 pound club."