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    Reservist takes ‘Army Strong’ to the next level



    Story by Sgt. 1st Class Mark Porter 

    U.S. Forces Afghanistan

    KABUL, Afghanistan - There is "Army Strong," and then there is Lt. Col. Patrick Howard.

    Currently serving in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, in his everyday life back in San Antonio, Howard works as assistant director of Planning and Community Development for the city and is a professional bodybuilder.

    So the Army slogan “Army Strong” doesn’t quite cut it when referring to a man who is part soldier, part city executive and part professional athlete.

    Howard, a native of South Carolina, graduated Clemson University in 1990 with a bachelor’s in Architecture. (He later earned a Master of Public Administration degree from Old Dominion University.) He commissioned as a second lieutenant from the university, having received a four-year ROTC scholarship.

    A Reservist (“and a proud one,” he said), Howard is assigned to and deployed with 4th Expeditionary Sustainment Command. He serves as deputy branch chief for Operational Contract Support for the 4th ESC at Bagram Air Field.

    “My job involves providing command emphasis and oversight to ensure that contracts involving our subordinate units (which focus on sustainment/movement and provision of equipment and supplies) [are] being executed smoothly,” he said.

    During the first 90 days of his deployment, Howard performed the same mission for U.S. Forces-Afghanistan at New Kabul Compound. During those three months, if someone went looking for him, their best bet was to start in the NKC Gym.

    “I've been doing two-a-days since I've been deployed,” he said. “Back home I usually do a five-day split - do each body part once a week - and do cardio most days and possibly on the days off. Since I deployed, I have been doing everything twice.”

    Though Howard expected to have difficulty finding time to train during his deployment, he has been surprised to find that in some ways, training is easier here.

    “There are fewer distractions, that’s for sure,” he said. “And the gyms are open 24 hours.”

    The only hurdle is long work days, but when he does leave the office, he is most likely in the gym. As he said, “What else is there to do?”

    For Howard, 43, the appeal of bodybuilding and military service are the same: setting a difficult goal and working to achieve it.

    “I like the discipline it takes to do this,” he said. “Working for a goal … I need that.

    “I think focus and discipline, no matter what the issue or subject, is about mental toughness. I believe this is a learned skill that is harnessed,” he said. “It has helped me endure what it takes to be successful in my military and civilian career. It has helped in almost every other area of my life, particularly in my civilian career.”

    That focus and desire to excel has been evident in his work in Afghanistan.

    “Lt. Col. Howard has done an outstanding job,” said Lt. Col. Jon Elliott, Operational Contract Support branch chief, Joint Sustainment Command-Afghanistan (4th ESC). “He requires very little supervision as he goes out and looks to always do more.”

    Though Howard exercised and lifted weights since he was a teenager, the decision to compete came later. It did not come as a flash of inspiration or a dramatic event, but from a poster.

    “I always worked out in high school and particularly in college,” recalled Howard. “At age 28, I saw a flyer at the gym and decided to give it a shot ... dieted for five weeks (didn't know what I was doing) and placed last.

    But he liked the experience and was encouraged to continue.

    “Nineteen shows and 15 years later, I am still competing,” he said.

    Now Howard knows exactly what he needs to do to compete. Though getting into competitive shape is a challenge, he said his biggest hurdle is not exercise, but diet. He lists Girl Scout Thin Mint Cookies and candy corn among his vices and admits he is “a sucker for sweet potato pie.”

    After years as an amateur, Howard’s next show will be as a professional. He earned his pro card when he won the International Natural Bodybuilding and Fitness Alamo Showdown in October 2009.

    When he redeploys next year, Howard will return to his regular schedule of work and exercise. He said he will begin training for competition and looks forward to the challenge.

    The people who have served with him here have little doubt he will meet the challenge.

    “He has a great work ethic and very [is] self motivated,” said Elliott. “I wish I had more like him.”



    Date Taken: 12.27.2011
    Date Posted: 12.29.2011 05:03
    Story ID: 81837
    Location: KABUL, AF

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