by Master Sgt. Andy Stephens
Air Force Recruiting Service Public Affairs
11/20/2013 - RICHMOND, Va. -- Her
feet pressed firmly into the mat, Staff Sgt. Stephanie Marin looks to
her coach. He gives her a knowing nod - "You're ready." She then looks
down at the bar, shiny and metallic. The 200 pounds of weight outweigh
the Air Force recruiter by 55 pounds. She takes a deep breath, gets a
tight grip, closes her eyes ... and lifts.
One! Two! Three!
Others in the gym stop and stare and count along with her, silently at
first, but their voices growing higher with each successive lift. At the
number 15, their voices become a roar.
This scene unfolds six days a week at The Weight Room in Richmond, Va.,
just down the road from where Marin works as an Air Force recruiter for
the 317th Recruiting Squadron's F-Flight. While the Air Force encourages
its Airmen to develop their physical prowess to a "fighting standard,"
the 24-year-old Chicago native said she goes to extra measures as a
means of becoming the very best person - Airman, recruiter, student -
she can be.
"Being an Air Force recruiter means that America's flying legion has
entrusted you with the responsibility to make yourself the best advocate
for the force," Marin said. "What we learn in our tech school is the
parameters of being a recruiter - what you can and cannot do and what
tools are available to you. A great recruiter adds their own initiative
and discipline to make him or herself a success. For me, weightlifting
is a big part of both initiative and discipline."
Marin credits her two coaches with keeping her motivated for a demanding
regimen: Chris Lawyer, the owner of The Weight Room, and Daniel
Clingenpeel. It was Lawyer who approached Marin one Saturday while she
was deadlifting and asked if she had ever competed before. Clingenpeel, a
competitive weight-lifter and physical education teacher at an area
middle school, echoed Lawyer's appeal.
"When she told me she hadn't competed, Danny and I were floored," Lawyer
said. "She had incredible strength. Being an owner, you can tell when
someone is working out just to keep fit versus someone who is sincere in
self-improvement. I told her about an upcoming strongman contest in
Richmond, the RVA Alpha Strongman, and that she should really consider
competing. What's wild is that, even though she only had a few weekends
to get ready for the contest, she placed second in the competition. Some
of those entrants had trained for years for that contest and she just
jumped right in and outperformed some of the best in the area. She is
all work ethic - no ego."
Strongman training is more intense than any CrossFit Challenge, Marin
said. For that reason, training can only be accomplished on Saturdays.
The competitions include a log press for maximum weight (Marin could do
120 pounds), a yoke/farmers carry (Marin finished in 15:43 seconds), a
maximum repetition axle dead lift (for Marin, 15 reps in one minute),
and a maximum weight stone load (Marin can do 200 pounds). Her second
place win at the Alpha Strongman qualified Marin for the Northern
American Strongman Championships, a rare feat for a first-timer.
"When I entered the Air Force, I was trained as a 2T151, Vehicle
Operations," Marin said. "I was blessed to have commanders and
supervisors who had faith in me and encouraged me to focus on my
self-improvement goals. I love going to school and working out, but the
Air Force is my passion. Where else can one find an environment where a
boss helps you to realize your full potential?"
Marin's current boss is Tech. Sgt. Vincent Green, the F-Flight chief for
the 317th RCS. He said he was not surprised by Marin's initiative,
describing her as a "super-focused Airman." He described her as
"building bridges of lasting influence" with members of the Delayed
Enlistment Program and the next generation of Airmen.
"Our Air Force recruiters are out there getting involved with the
American public because they represent the best of the Air Force," Green
said. "Marin is one of our best recruiters. When she meets with the
families of future Airmen, you can see in their eyes that Marin
understands. They are placing great faith in our recruiters to guide
them into the force, helping their sons and daughters navigate the
enlistment process and demonstrating by personal example the full
potential that the Air Force can unlock in a motivated Airman."
Adding to Marin's credibility is her academic success as a student in
computer engineering, giving her fluency in the cyberspace aspects of
today's STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) initiatives.
"Because computer science is a very demanding academic program, I do
have to work hard to balance my weightlifting training with my
coursework," Marin said. "I couldn't afford to travel to the Northern
American Strongman Championships this year because most of my salary
goes to cover my school books and I really didn't want to be away from
my job on such short notice. I'm pretty excited to be a Strongman
competitor - to be a Strongwoman - but my current mission is to become a
certified recruiter and wrap up my computer engineering degree. But I'm
going to work even harder now that I know I'm on the right track."
"Marin is a winner," Green said. "And she proves easily to others what
it takes to win through willpower and fair play. The Air Force
Recruiting Service is very lucky to have recruiters like her to
communicate the Air Force message to tomorrow's Airmen."