PACAF chief wins gold, breaks records in powerlifting

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Peter Borys
  • Pacific Air Forces Public Affairs
Chief Master Sergeant Troy Saunders, the Pacific Air Forces vehicle management functional manager, is one individual who carries a lot of weight in Pacific Air Forces; literally.

Saunders recently competed at the 2013 Raw International Powerlifting Championships in Columbus, Ohio, and coached the Air Force Powerlifting Team at the 2013 Military National Powerlifting, Championships in Orlando, Florida, where he dominated the competition at both events.

At the Ohio event, the 44 year-old team captain won a first place gold medal in the 205-pound Master Class and tied for the third place bronze medal in the Open 205-pound class with a 534-pound squat, 352-pound bench press and a 622-pound deadlift.

"This was by far one of the most challenging competitions I have competed in with athletes coming from 15 different countries," said Saunders.

During the military event, Saunders was able to Squat 540 pounds, bench press 348 pounds and Deadlift 639 pounds, which won him 16 gold medals in many of the 220 pound classes. The Air Force team also garnered the second place team trophy.

"It was an exceptional day for the Air Force team, and it was an honor to coach my fellow Airmen to be their best," Saunders said. "Each is an exceptional athlete and an example to all of what dedication and hard work can realize."

Saunders captured gold medals in many classes including the Overall Best Lifter categories with lifters that out-weighed him by more than 80 pounds.

"As a big believer in personal fitness myself, I believe the Chief serves as a great role model for all of us," said Col. Herbert Phillips, PACAF Logistics Readiness division chief. "He takes a very balanced approach to fitness, pushes himself to achieve, and is always willing to share his wealth of knowledge in exercise and nutrition with his fellow Airmen."

His motivation to be an athlete started at the age of eight. He claims that the 1976 Olympics and Arnold Schwarzenegger's bodybuilding achievements, was a great influence and began lifting at the age of 12.

He won his first competition in 1989 as a bodybuilder at the Luke Air Force Base Invitational, Arizona, and his first major lifting competition in 1999 at the Montana State Powerlifting Championships.

Saunders has competed in 59 bodybuilding and 40 powerlifting competitions as well as being the 2004, 2008 and 2010 United States Air Forces Europe Athlete of the Year and 2011 Air Mobility Command Athlete of the Year.

"Great mentoring and natural talent are big parts of the recipe; however, hard work and dedication are without a doubt the biggest indicators of a true champion," Saunders said.

Saunders stressed that invariably age is a factor. "Years of pushing a body to its limit will leave a mature athlete with injuries and joints that are not as willing to do the same work without significantly more effort. But, if you are willing to put in the effort and train smart, anyone at my or any age can still be a big challenger at any competitive level."

At this point in his lifting career Saunders holds all the American Military Raw Lifting Records for the squat, bench press and deadlift in the 198 and 220 pound classes. He also holds two American Raw Masters Deadlift Records in the 198 and 220 classes and will be pushing to exceed his own personal records.

"Turning 45 this year will make me eligible to set records in another masters age category and I hope to continue to do the same when I am 50 and beyond," Saunders said.

With nearly 26 years in the Air Force, Saunders shared his formula for success.

"Mentors are priceless," he said. "Also, dream big and never underestimate willpower and desire. It is what keeps you going and moving forward. Once you reach a goal, there is no better way to motivate yourself then setting the next challenge to pursue."

He said he would never be able to compete or perform at his best without the support of his peers, co-workers and leadership.

"His actions speak much louder than just words when you look at his incredible accomplishments and success in the recent competitions," Phillips said. "It's great to have him on our staff."