INCIRLIK AIR BASE, Turkey --
The physical presence of families and friends is often the backbone and support system Airmen rely on. However, the combination of an unaccompanied short tour, coupled with the fact Airmen cannot leave base, creates unique challenges where an Airman potentially has plenty of free time and is in need of a temporarily family.
For Diana Valdez, bodybuilding started as way to occupy her free time; she never imagined the benefits it would produce during her time here.
“Bodybuilding and weightlifting was never something I was interested in,” said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Diana Valdez, 39th Force Support Squadron superintendent of career development and installation personnel readiness. “I arrived at Incirlik the week before last year’s Clash of the Titans Bodybuilding Competition and seeing the women on stage inspired me to put all of my free time to good use.”
In addition to filling up her free time bodybuilding, Valdez found a family away from home and made herself, and those around her, better Airmen. Through her dedication to fitness and her commitment to her Airmen, she has created a better environment and a fit–to-fight mentality at work.
“When I see my supervisor make it to the gym every day, it motivates me to push through and get it done,” said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Stacilyn Texeira, 39th FSS career development supervisor. “Her commitment and consistency while preparing for the fitness competition has motivated me to continuously strive to maintain a healthy lifestyle.”
In addition to motivating her Airmen, Valdez’s well-rounded lifestyle has created an environment where her troops feel they can approach her for advice, development and feedback.
“Working out with her allowed me to see more of her personal side, this in turn created a more comfortable environment in the office because we could approach her,” said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Maximiliano Estrada, 39th FSS customer support supervisor.
Stressed by multiple Airmen in her shop, comfortability with a supervisor is something they found essential to creating an effective work environment.
“Being able to connect to your supervisor on things outside of work makes understanding them as a person easier, and communication in the workplace more effective, allowing us to be a more productive team during the duty day,” said Texeira.
Her newfound hobby not only created a more welcoming atmosphere, but it also was a huge motivator for her Airmen. Valdez not only improved her overall health by dropping 30 pounds and scoring a 98 on her physical fitness test, which is the best in her 13 year career, she prioritized fitness into her work day, inspiring her Airmen to do the same.
“She leads by example, and her dedication and discipline is something that I admire and it makes me want to be more disciplined,” said Estrada. “We have a lot of respect for her because she has shown us that no matter what rank, age or position we have that we can do something if we put our mind to it and to go out there and get it.”
Furthermore, the mission does not become successful through the work of one Airman, instead it is through the overall efforts of multiple Airmen that come together and support each other as a family. Valdez found that many aspects of bodybuilding parallel the way an office can come together to enhance the mission.
“When it comes to working out there are days where you are uncertain if you can lift some weights, but your spotter is there to support you and allow you to lift more weight than you normally could without the risk of failure,” said Valdez. “I refer to my team at work as my spotters because I can’t do everything by myself, and they make sure we accomplish the mission at work while supporting each other when needed.”
And just like any good workout partner, you aren’t always the one spotting. Sometimes, leaders need spotting as well.
“Master Sgt. Valdez is a strong person, but I know it wasn’t always easy sticking to her fitness regimen,” said Texeira. “Our military personnel flight family has made it our goal to make sure she achieves her personal goal of being competition ready and this has definitely brought us closer together.”
Even though the initial goal was to compete in a bodybuilding competition, the final result was leading by example, showing Airmen that anything is possible if you put your mind to it and bonding with Airmen during a one-year short tour.