Bodybuilding through adversity

The Air Force is a large organization comprised of Airmen working to get the mission done and deter our nation’s adversaries 24/7, but what happens behind the scenes? What gets these Airmen up every day and keeps them strong and motivated in the face of everyday challenges?

Senior Airman Niketa Wilson, 90th Force Support Squadron fitness specialist, lifts a curl bar at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyo., Jan. 11, 2017. Wilson uses her dream of becoming a professional bodybuilder to stay resilient in the face of adversity. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Breanna Carter)

The Air Force is a large organization comprised of Airmen working to get the mission done and deter our nation’s adversaries 24/7, but what happens behind the scenes? What gets these Airmen up every day and keeps them strong and motivated in the face of everyday challenges?

(U.S. Air Force courtesy photo)

The Air Force is a large organization comprised of Airmen working to get the mission done and deter our nation’s adversaries 24/7, but what happens behind the scenes? What gets these Airmen up every day and keeps them strong and motivated in the face of everyday challenges?

(U.S. Air Force courtesy photo)

F.E. WARREN AIR FORCE BASE, Wyo. --

The Air Force is a large organization comprised of Airmen working to get the mission done and deter our nation’s adversaries 24/7, but what happens behind the scenes? What gets these Airmen up every day and keeps them strong and motivated in the face of everyday challenges?

Senior Airman Niketa Wilson, 90th Force Support Squadron fitness specialist, is a full-time Airman, mother, student and even has a part-time job at Subway. For her, bodybuilding and her son, Daniel, are what keeps her going.

“I always wanted to do fitness competitions, but I just didn’t make time, and I got pregnant with my son,” Wilson said. “Then my mom moved here from Mississippi to help with Daniel, which enabled me to pick up some weights and start on my journey.”

Wilson hired a personal trainer and seven months after giving birth, she stepped on stage for her first competition, in which she placed third.

This journey didn’t come without its challenges, though. Wilson’s mother passed away September 2017, and she made the tough decision to move her son.

“My mom was the primary caregiver for my son, and when she passed, I sent him to live with my family in Mississippi because of the cost of childcare,” said Wilson. “It really felt like I lost two people.”

Wilson explained that she saw this as an opportunity to reinvent herself.

“This experience helped me rediscover myself and my purpose,” Wilson said. “I decided to put all my focus and effort into my work when it was time to come back.”

Wilson said her leadership made the transition back to work a lot smoother.

“My first sergeant and squadron supported me a lot, as well as my commander when she came to check on me,” Wilson said. “When you have support like that, it makes the healing process more manageable.

Wilson’s determination and resiliency did not go unnoticed by those in the workplace.

“Nikki is a go-getter,” said Staff Sgt. Benjamin Cole, 90th FSS fitness specialist. “She has a lot of energy and the ability to tackle both professional and personal goals. She truly is Superwoman.”

Wilson is gradually accomplishing the goals she has set for herself. She completed her Community College of the Air Force degree and is working to get her bachelor’s degree in health science.

“The key to sticking with your goals is to write them down, have a visual for what you want to do and say them out loud,” said Wilson. “If it’s constantly on your mind, you’re more inclined to pursue it, but you have to be consistent.”

Glenn Garcia, 90th Medical Group outreach program manager, said that resiliency is the ability to adapt to challenges in life and learn from the event to move forward. He offered some ways for Airmen to stay resilient.

“You can't change the fact that stressful things happen, but you can change how you respond to them,” Garcia said. “Accepting help and support from those who care about you will help strengthen your resilience. Likewise, assisting other Airmen in their time of need can have a positive impact on your outlook. Connect with others through sports or clubs, either in your squadron or the local community.”

Wilson said she hopes to keep competing and become a professional bodybuilder one day.

“There are things you don’t see coming, but it’s your responsibility to pull yourself out of the hole and reach your full potential,” Wilson said. “The moment you feel like quitting is usually the moment when you’re about to achieve something great, and that’s just the test that you have to push through.”