HOLLOMAN AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. --
With over 200 career opportunities in the Air Force, the daily duties of Airmen, enlisted or commissioned, can vary; but as a force, all service members must uphold a physical standard regardless of their job training.
Recognized as one of the four pillars of Comprehensive Airman Fitness, maintaining physical fitness is more than passing an annual physical training assessment.
For one Airman, challenging his physical limitations is a daily practice of resiliency.
“There have been studies that show if you take the time to make your bed in the morning, you will feel accomplished and more productive during the day,” said 2nd Lt. Josh Thompson, 49th Wing Public Affairs officer. “That is very much how exercising is for me.”
Each morning, Thompson begins his day exercising for up to 90 minutes.
“Everybody has their own reset button,” said Thompson. “Pushing past a personal, mental or physical limit first thing in the morning is my reset.”
Distance running, hiking, dancing, strength training and swimming – there is not much Thompson does not do when it comes to improving his physical fitness.
From the time he was a child, Thompson dreamed of joining the ranks of the world’s greatest Air Force in hopes of serving as a pilot, like his grandfather did.
“There was something magical about being in the cockpit and in control of an aircraft – it drew me in,” said Thompson. “But, sometimes things happen for a reason and sometimes they do not.”
Thompson attended Sacramento State University and pursued commissioning as an officer through the university’s Air Force ROTC program.
But, after five years of hard work and dedication, he graduated in 2014 with a Bachelor of Arts in mathematics, a minor in dance and, unfortunately, no commission.
“Two weeks before graduation, I was told that I would not be commissioning and ‘good luck’,” said Thompson. “I was absolutely crushed.”
Thompson began to lose hope in his future, but thankfully, a friend showed up when he needed them the most.
“A close friend of mine was training to be a body builder and offered to take me to her gym,” said Thompson. “Originally I began to work out for company, but I continued to work out for myself.”
Minoring in dance and upholding the physical standards required for ROTC, Thompson was no stranger to exercise. However, he had always trained to meet just that – a standard.
“I started going to the gym regularly,” said Thompson. “Once a day led to twice a day and before I knew it, I was in the gym every day. For a long time, it was the only way I could cope.”
Though Thompson felt defeated, he did not give up on becoming an officer.
After actively pursuing an Air Force commission for eight years, he was accepted into Officer Training School and left for Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, on Jan. 16, 2018, followed by Pensacola Naval Air Station, Florida, to begin his training as a combat systems officer.
“As much as it crushed me to not commission right out of ROTC, I started to realize the dream I had worked so hard to achieve was not the path I was meant to be on,” said Thompson. “During my CSO training, I decided I wanted to be a bigger part of the people mission as opposed to the technical side of the Air Force mission.”
Thompson left his CSO training and received orders to Holloman, where he would become a Public Affairs officer.
“Public Affairs was my first choice because of the wide range of human interaction with civilians and military,” said Thompson. “I enjoy working with people on a very personal basis and engaging with the community.”
With only four months on station, Thompson said he has found plenty of outdoor activities to enjoy in the local area.
“There is so much to enjoy in the moment here,” said Thompson. “For as much as I go to the gym, I still set aside extra time to run. Running along the mountain ranges at sunset is the only way to experience it.”
While Thompson’s journey in the Air Force has not lined up with the expectations he set for himself as a cadet, he continues to find strength in the unknown.
“If I could go back, I would tell myself to not rush into the future. I spent so much time hitting the fast-forward button to get to my end goal because I wanted it so badly, but I missed so many opportunities and personal connections along the way. I could have learned so much if I had just stopped and become more aware of the life that was happening around me.”
Currently attending his public affairs training at the Defense Information School in Fort George G. Meade, Maryland, Thompson continues to adapt to the daily changes that he is faced with in his new career.
“Adapting to change is critical,” said Thompson. “Finding solace in the consistency of the day to day is something I have developed since my time in the Air Force. Office dynamics will continue to change as each person out-processes, including myself. And, there is always more to learn.”
Physical fitness will always be the foundation of Thompson’s daily resiliency practices, but his personal goal is to overcome more difficult physical challenges every year.
Thompson’s goal for 2019 is to train and compete in an Ironman Triathlon in 2020.
“There is so much excitement in the opportunities that lie beyond the horizon,” said Thompson. “The Air Force has given me opportunities not only for my career but for myself.”