INDIANAPOLIS – After three months of training, Lacey Hancock and LaTara Smith felt ready.
They’d pushed themselves at the gym, stuck to a strict eating plan, and drank gallons of water.
The soldiers pride themselves on maintaining high standards, training continuously to improve their Warrior Skills whether on or off duty.
So, when Hancock, a staff sergeant with the 205th Infantry Brigade at Camp Atterbury, Ind., took the stage at the Madam Walker Theatre for the National Physique Committee Bodybuilding and Fitness Competition, she brought that warrior ethos with her. She walked away with a first place finish in the Women’s Physique Division.
“I try to live by the Army Values not only because I’m a soldier, but also because I am a single mother who takes pride in teaching my son what is right,” said Hancock, who competed in her first competition at 16, in 2000 at Indiana State University. “I think we can all make a better effort to live by the Army Values in our everyday lives.”
It’s that passion and her desire to help others reach their goals that led to her encouraging Smith to participate in her first competition.
“Physical Fitness is not just a hobby, it’s my job! It is our job as Soldiers to be as physically fit as possible to be ready for any mission at any time,” said Hancock, who has competed in Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, and Oklahoma. “I am honored to be in a position where I can influence others to start feeling the same way.”
For Smith, also a staff sergeant with the 1-335th Infantry Regiment, 205th Infantry Brigade, competing in the National Physique Committee competition was a new and exciting experience, she said.
“It took a lot of personal courage to stand in front of a crowd of people and compete,” said Smith, who competed in the bikini division, one of the three NPC divisions – bikini, figure, and physique. “It took a lot of personnel sacrifice and discipline to maintain a strict diet and workout route that allowed me to maintain the extreme level of fitness I needed to compete.”
Months of work
The Soldiers leadership is proud of their hard work and dedication, said Capt. Corey Henderson, rear-commander for the Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 205th Infantry Brigade.
“I have personally trained with her and Staff Sgt. Smith and can't say enough about their work ethic in the gym. Staff Sgt. Hancock pushes herself to new limits every day!” said Henderson, from Nashville, Tenn. “Smith has been inspired by this and has shown the same dedication; experiencing tremendous results in a very short period of time. Their preparation for this competition speaks volumes about their perspective for their responsibilities as Soldiers. Without a doubt these two NCO's have demonstrated placing the mission first and not quitting as top priorities; setting the example for our Brigade.”
Hancock said it really helped having a training and accountability partner.
“We were able to lean on each other throughout this process,” said Hancock, an avid CrossFitter. “I am a firm believer in CrossFit and what it stands for. No doubt in my mind that CrossFit has changed my body. CrossFit is not only an awesome work out, but it’s a lifestyle change. I recommend this to anyone!”
The Soldiers also worked out at the gym every morning and, when training for a competition, again at lunch. As they got closer to the competition, diet becomes an even bigger part of the transformation process paired with a serious exercise regimen.
Why they do it
The United States Army is a values-based organization and as a professional we live by the Soldiers Creed, said Command Sgt. Maj. Christopher R. Morse, command sergeant major of the 205th Infantry Brigade, First Army Division East, at Camp Atterbury, Ind.
“One of the stanza states, ‘I am disciplined, physically and mentally tough, trained and proficient in my warrior tasks and drills. I always maintain my arms, my equipment and … myself.’,” said Morse, reciting the Soldiers Creed. “As a Soldier physical training is just not a training event conducted daily, but a continued way of life.”
It is a way of life, said Smith, from Gary, Ind.
“Hancock made eating clean and working out look easy. It’s so a part of her world, that she has actually made it a part of mine, she inspired me,” said Smith, who is applying for Officer Candidate School. “It takes hard work, commitment, drive and a great deal of personal courage to compete in the fitness arena. I applied that mentality to preparing for OCS.
“I now know with dedication, discipline, and hard work I can accomplish anything I strive for.”
When they announced her name – it took a minute to sink in, said Hancock.
Hancock won a trophy sword, a new gym bag, and free supplements. She also qualified for the Team Universe and Fitness National Championships in July. Smith did not place in her first competition; however, both Soldiers are planning to compete in another competition June 8 in Indianapolis.
“It was a complete surprise and totally unexpected. I went into this contest with the attitude to just try my best and looking at it as a learning experiment and something to hold myself accountable,” Hancock said. “It takes a lot of hard work and dedication but I hope I can serve as motivation for others to make a change. Anything you can imagine is possible with a little work and a lot of passion.”