â€œI didnâ€™t just wake up one morning, thinking Iâ€™d strap on a KC-135 and pull it across a flight line in front of more than 400,000 spectators and free of charge. Who would be dumb enough to do that?â€ Of course, this was the statement made by Master Sgt. Josh Bell, 452d Air Mobility Wing Logistics Readiness Squadron, just before he announced that he would be strapping on a KC-135 and pulling it across a flight line in front of 350,000 spectators, and free of charge during the March Field AirFest 2012, May 19 and 20.
The idea to entertain the 400,000-plus AirFest-goers with such an unthinkable show of strength came from Lt. Col. Keith Guillotte, 452d AMW Operations Group. While attending an airshow planning conference, Guillotte learned of an attraction that featured a strongman lugging an aircraft for several feet without any mechanized assistance, for a whopping $10,000.
While grinning, Guillotte said, â€œI have been in the military long enough to know that March Air Reserve Base leadership and the AirFest planning committee are not going to shell out $10,000 for an event such as this. So, who do I know thatâ€™s strong enough and dumb enough to pull one of our KC-135â€™sâ€¦and do it for free.â€
The rest is history, as Josh assuredly accepted the challenge, after being approached by Guillotte with little to no coaxing.
So, how does one train to pull a KC-135 with just a rope, a good pair of athletic shoes and a prayer?
For the most part, Bell did not train for the event, he was already in the proper physical and mental shape to pull this off.
Bell is somewhat of a fitness guru. He walks the walk and talks the talk, but without all of the flash. â€œItâ€™s not about trying to impress people with massive pectorals or bulging biceps, but more about being serious about your physical and mental fitness and well-being,â€ he said.
From a physical aspect, his team focuses on strength and conditioning. They combine several types of U.S. Air Force approved exercise methodologies to accomplish their goals. The regiments encompass squatting and pressing twice a week, deadlifting, olympic weightlifting moves (clean and jerk) and applied plyometrics. Conditioning typically consists of sprints, tire-flipping, kettle-bells and gymnastics. â€œWithout ever running farther than one-quarter mile at one time, our team can break into the low, 10-minute mark on the 1 Â½-mile test,â€ said Bell.
Their mental fitness is also a major contributing factor when assessing how to shape their overall well-being, Bell said. Mentally, they apply ideologies that condition their minds to release its restrictors; a person who is well educated and trained on proper workout techniques and ensures proper warm-ups are accomplished prior to any strenuous lifting, can far exceed amounts once thought unattainable. Free the mind and the rest will follow, he said.
â€œWe had a guy that routinely did poor on his fitness test until joining our team. Now, he is able to max out his required amount with no problem,â€ said Bell. â€œHe just needed to believe that he could and he did!â€
Staff Sgt. Julia Sheehan, 912th Air Refueling Squadron is at a point, physically and mentally, where nothing is un-achievable thanks to Bellâ€™s new workout routine. She said she intends to take that mind-set and work ethic back to her squadron and apply it to her job.
Itâ€™s that same mind-set and workout ethic that drove Bell to succeed in his strong-man demonstration at the AirFest.
It went very well, said Bell. On Saturday, the airshow presenters put on a skit where the tug towing the KC-135 pretended to break down as it was passing the Thunderbirds parking area at show center. The show narrators did a great job of hamming it up and asking the spectators if there was someone who could help.
â€œThat is when I emerged,â€ Bell said. â€œI ran out of the crowd, put on the riggings and pulled the aircraft about 50 feet or so.â€
Sundayâ€™s demonstration was a little different, Bell said. He was announced as the base strongman who would perform a feat of strength.
â€œThatâ€™s when I ran out to the pre-positioned aircraft and pulled it again for about 50 feet,â€ said Bell.
Comments heard throughout the crowd were those of amazement and disbelief that a seemingly regular man had just pulled a 100,000 pound aircraft by himself.
â€œEverything we do in the gym and how we take care of ourselves nutritionally and mentally, prepares us for the unknown that we deal with on a regular basis while serving in the military,â€ said Bell. We must maintain Total Fitness if we are to be a part of the Total Force.â€