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Peterson Space Observer

Air and space communications squadron Airman achieves powerlifting world records

By Lt. Col. Mae-Li Allison | Combined Force Space Component Command Public Affairs

VANDENBERG SPACE FORCE BASE, Calif. — An Airman assigned to the Combined Force Space Component Command’s 614th Air and Space Communications Squadron (ACOMS) broke not one, but two world records during a recent powerlifting competition.  

Tech. Sgt. Chad Penson, 614th ACOMS cyber response lead, participated in the 2021 Kern U.S. Open from April 24-25, 2021, and not only set personal records in squats, bench press and deadlift, but also achieved world records in both squats and combined weights of all three lifts.  This combined weight of 2,199 pounds was an impressive 11 times his body weight.

“We are very excited for Tech. Sgt. Penson and his well-deserved success,” said Lt. Col. Jontae McGrew, 614th ACOMS commander. “This is a significant milestone in his personal goals that embodies perseverance, showing us that just because it’s difficult, doesn’t make it impossible.”

Penson did not necessarily set out to break all his personal records and achieve two world records in this one event, however.

“My initial goal going into the competition was to have a realistic plan in place to make it extremely difficult for the other two top contenders there to beat me even on their best days,” said Penson. “While I did know the world records were possible to break, the task at hand was still daunting and I knew typically things never go according to plan on the actual day of competition. The world records were essentially stepping stones–very, very nice stepping stones.”

Penson’s journey to becoming a world-class powerlifter began as a young trainee in the Air Force.

“I started powerlifting back in 2011 while in tech school at Keesler Air Force Base,” he said. “They hosted a small powerlifting meet at the fitness center and I happened to walk in during weigh-ins, and just decided to do it.”

With no previous training in the sport, Penson did not place in that initial competition, but enjoyed the experience and sense of camaraderie there.

“I was pretty terrible but I had so much fun I decided to stick with it,” he remarked. “This was a year and a half after I stopped wrestling and I missed the element of individual competition but there was also camaraderie at the meet, even though I didn’t know anyone there.”

Now stationed at Vandenberg AFB, Penson trains at home in his garage gym so he can have access to more specialized strength-training equipment. His workouts often last for hours each day.

“There’s a very fine line between balancing work with training at a professional level,” Penson said. “Eight-hour work days followed by three to four hours of grueling training, and then one to two hours of studying for nutrition certifications or working with any of my clients, is the norm.”

When asked what the future holds for him, Penson sees continuing to pursue his passion for fitness and nutrition as a natural next step following his Air Force career.

“It’s a small operation for now with me balancing my job and school but I think I will make coaching and nutrition my full-time career post military,” he said. “Helping others achieve their goals and seeing the happiness on their faces doing something they never thought possible for themselves makes me extremely happy.”

Air and space communications squadron Airman achieves powerlifting world records
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