Moody Sergeant finds drive to stay 'fit to fight'

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Eric Schloeffel
  • 23rd Wing Public Affairs
Long before the Air Force mandated its "fit to fight" initiative, one Moody sergeant had already realized the importance of pushing himself to the limit. 

Staff Sgt. Jonathan Phillips, 723rd Maintenance Squadron, entered the Air Force as a dedicated athlete but lost his drive in his early years as an Airman, he said. 

"When I entered the Air Force nine years ago, it was the first time I was living on my own and felt I could do whatever I wanted," he said. "I got away from the fitness path and became lazy." 

Laziness was a new concept to Sergeant Phillips, as he previously participated in his high school's cross country and swim teams. Sergeant Phillips even held the title of Junior Olympic Swimmer during his teenage years in Berthoud, Colo. 

Sergeant Phillips eventually found himself back on the fitness track and gained satisfaction from making strides step-by-step, he said. Sergeant Phillips started building his fitness level gradually and was soon running five kilometer races. 

"One day I just decided to pull my head out of the sand and start getting serious about fitness," he said. "When I started putting in the time and effort to build to a certain level, I looked back and had an excellent physical and emotional feeling from doing my best. That feeling is one of the main motivations that got me where I am today." 

As his fitness level progressed, Sergeant Phillips gained an appreciation for challenging himself. He joined the Moody triathlon team which combines swimming, running and biking on a competitive level. These triathlons typically consist of a 1,500 meter swim, 13-mile bike and five-mile run. The team is currently training to compete in the Air Force Marathon in September. 

Sergeant Phillips also trains with the Valdosta Racing Team; a group of local area athletes who compete with teams from other cities in activities such as trail running, mountain biking, canoeing and orienteering with a map and compass. The goal of these events is to reach a finish line after each exercise phase is complete. 

"As a seasoned outdoorsman and athlete, I consider adventure racing an all-inclusive sport," said Sergeant Phillips. "With races lasting from three hours to 14 days, the long distances and often punishing terrain pushes your body to the limit. Just finishing is a satisfaction I have never felt before." 

His training for these events includes biking a total of nine miles daily to-and-from work and then either running or swimming. He also tries to canoe when possible. 

"I believe fitness is a key element to military life and is vital whether you work in an office or on the flight line," said Sergeant Phillips. "Aside from that, exercise is proven to relieve stress and tension which can lead to enhanced performance at work." 

He also credits his family as one of the motivating factors for his change of attitude, he said. 

"I want to stay in shape and be healthy so I can stay around as long as possible for my family," said the sergeant. "Also, I thought 'what fun would I be as a father if I was overweight and sitting on the coach?' I have three children now, so it's important I stay fit for them." 

His philosophy of making exercise a cornerstone of both military and family life has also influenced other Airmen to step up their game and take fitness seriously, said Senior Airman Chad Kiene, 723rd MXS. 

"Sergeant Phillips is an outstanding motivator and personal trainer," said Airman Kiene. "His focus is not just scoring a 75 percent on the physical training test, but to go as far as he can and push every day. He taught me not only how to get in shape, but the benefits of also maintaining it for a long and healthy life."