Columbus AFB Airmen compete, place at 2019 USA Powerlifting Military Nationals in Texas

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Keith Holcomb
  • 14th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs

Powerlifting is a sport in which an individual performs a single repetition over numerous sets of the squat, bench press and deadlift to the best of their ability; and during competition the individual with the highest combined weight, in their respective category, is the winner.


During the past several months, 2nd Lt. Brett Albertson and Staff Sgt. Thomas Buena from Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi, have been training for the 2019 USA Powerlifting Military Nationals, which took place March 16 in Killeen, Texas.


With over 75 competitors present, Buena finished runner up in his category, tying the winner with a combined weight of 1,593 pounds but lost the tiebreaker which is determined by the lighter competitor. Albertson was on track to place first in his class, however none of his squats counted. He said he was disappointed, but it was part of a great learning experience.


Albertson and Buena each took away valuable lessons from their first competition. They said they learned about the structure of powerlifting competitions, how to help other competitors with commands, and how to listen to lifting ques before, during, and after their lift.


Every uniformed Airman has to uphold physical standards and each Airman works to meet those standards in their own ways. Buena, 14th Contracting Squadron NCO in charge of Base Operating, Support and Services team, said powerlifting is his own passion helping him stay active and fit to fight.


“I lifted in high school for football,” Buena said. “When I was stationed in Germany my thing was rugby. Then in 2015 I was deployed and had to fill the athletic void so I started powerlifting.”


Buena came to Columbus AFB soon after finding enjoyment in lifting heavy weights, but the lifting community was much smaller than his previous assignment. He began lifting in the mornings alone, but noticed a few of the same people in the gym every day. He eventually worked with Albertson, 14th Civil Engineer Squadron chief of project management, to help spot during heavier lifts.


“We had seen each other because 14th CES works closely with the 14th CONS,” Albertson said. “So we talked about different lifts we enjoy, some of the professionals we look up to, spotted each other a few times, now we’re competing in the USA Powerlifting Military Nationals competition .”


Buena said having an end goal, like a powerlifting competition, really gave them something to work towards. He noted how in many aspects of life it helps to keep short and long term goals in mind when perusing anything.


“I started football in high school, like Buena, and started lifting during practices, eventually gaining muscle to reach about 270 pounds,” Albertson said. “I decided football wasn’t for me and in college lost a lot of that muscle. At the end of sophomore year I started lifting a little bit here and there, but was mostly doing cardio based exercises.”


Albertson began working with a nationally recognized powerlifter from the U.S. Air Force Reserve who helped him recover from past injuries while improving his form. Albertson said he’s very happy with his progress and was excited to get out of his comfort zone while competing in the military national event.


When practicing for anything people can hit training plateaus and Buena said they each hit a few.


“It was a hard mental thing to hit walls,” Buena said. “You find where your limits are and you really have to step back to move forward if that makes sense. I was kind of prepared for it, but it’s never fun to see your progress slow down.”


They relied on each other to help get past these barriers. Albertson and Buena both agreed having an accountability partner motivated them to get up and work hard early in the mornings.


“This has been a good avenue for me to set goals,” Albertson said. “When I got to Columbus AFB my goal was to complete three full distance Spartan Races. I competed last year with some friends and my next goal was to compete in a powerlifting competition. I had done the cardio side and now I’ve completed the strength side.”


Albertson said both sides have different pros and cons, noting it’s opened his eyes to the aspects of fitness he most enjoys as well as how his body responds to different demands throughout certain workouts.


Buena and Albertson both said the powerlifting community has a lot to offer to those who are interested and mentioned some of the many network opportunities powerlifting communities have, even across DOD branches.


“The CrossFit, running, Alpha warrior, and things like that have been popular in Air Force culture,” Buena said. “I’ve ran a half-marathon before and done different races, but take it from me you don’t have to be super athletic to pick up some heavy weights.”


Both athletes are continuing their fitness journey; Albertson wants to continue powerlifting style training; in addition to intense cardio workouts. Buena said his goal is to work towards a lower weight class and keep the same strength in each of the three major lifts.