FORT BENNING, Ga. - It is not often that Soldiers are able to take the knowledge learned from their hobbies and apply that knowledge to better Soldiers on a grand scale, but that is exactly what one Soldier has the chance to do as he prepares for a new assignment that will allow him to impact Soldiers throughout the Army.
Capt. Donald Bigham was the commander of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division. After relinquishing command, recently, he is now preparing for a position as a team leader for the Master Fitness Trainer Course at the U.S. Army Physical Readiness School in Fort Jackson, S.C.
The Master Fitness Trainer Course, or MFTC, provides the force with certified fitness advisers who have earned Army Skill Identifiers as Master Fitness Trainers. The Soldiers Bigham will train will serve as Master Fitness Trainers, or MFTs, an additional-duty that empowers them to be special advisers to unit commanders - company through division - to facilitate physical training based on the doctrine in Field Manual 7-22, Army Physical Readiness Training, formerly Training Circular 3-22.20.
“For the most part, my primary goal for serving in this capacity is to ensure the Soldiers that come through this course walk away with a lot of ‘golden nuggets,’ or tools, for their kit bag to ensure our Army is the most physically fit to endure and overcome any challenge in combat and/or garrison, hence a more resilient Soldier,” the Clinton, S.C., native said.
Bigham is excited to take on a new, challenging position, but faced another challenge in leaving his Soldiers.
In addition to commanding HHC, 1st Bn., 15th Inf. Regt., Bigham also commanded the battalion’s Company B since arriving to the brigade in 2012.
“There is no greater responsibility than leading Soldiers,” he said. “It is definitely a double edge sword in that it is humbling and rewarding at the same time. In certain aspects, I feel much relief but on the other hand I feel a great emptiness.
“Commanding Soldiers has always been my passion and I am so blessed to know that God blessed me with two commands and it has been the greatest honor in my 20 year professional career. I am deeply honored to have served with my Soldiers and their families — Baker Boys and Hell Raiser. Can do!”
The role Bigham will take on now, however, will encompass his knowledge as a Soldier, a leader and a fitness expert.
Bigham holds a Bachelor of Science in Physical Education and Master of Science in Sports Management. Prior to his time in the Army, he served in the Marine Corps. It was during his time then, more than two decades ago, that he discovered his love for powerlifting.
“I started powerlifting back in 1992 in the Marines while stationed in Okinawa, Japan. I had the privilege to work out on Sly Anderson’s power lifting team, and that was definitely a humbling ad learning experience. After that, I was definitely a competitor for life,” Bigham explained.
Bigham participated in local and state competitions until 1998, when he took a break from the sport.
“I stopped competing for numerous reasons — college, children and family responsibilities. After about a 10-year furlough from the platform, I returned last year for a state competition, the Battle of the Borders, in March 2013,” he said. “But in between then, I never stopped lifting.”
He has won numerous awards and broken many state records in the sport, which has afforded him the opportunity to train and travel around the world. Bigham secured his spot in the International Powerlifting Federation’s Raw Classics Powerlifting Championships.
This world competition will be held in Johannesburg, South Africa, this June. There will be 33 countries represented in the championship. Bigham will be representing the United States in the middle weight (83 kg, 40 to 44 age group) division. Of the 48 raw powerlifters on the U.S. team, Bigham is only one of two 83 kg lifters.
But it’s not just the accolades he gains at these competitions, its knowledge; it's knowledge Bigham strives to pass onto Soldiers each and every day he is in the uniform.
“As a passionate leader, I take every opportunity to teach Soldiers and set the conditions for their success, whether it is developing an individual [physical training] program to be successful at Ranger School or what the best shoe to wear for running is,” he explained. “God has blessed me with numerous gifts, it is imperative that I share some words of wisdom and encouragement.”
Bigham said he can’t thank his family enough for their support — his wife, Tracy, and sons, Dillon and Dereck, as well as his mother, father and brother.
My internal motivation and self-discipline keeps me excited about going to another platform and breaking another record,” Bigham said. “I really enjoy a challenge whether it’s squatting [three times your] bodyweight or running a half marathon with seven-minute-a-mile pace. God has definitely made our bodies perfect because if you establish a goal and give 110 percent effort there is nothing that you cannot accomplish.”
Bigham chronicles his powerlifting competitions on his website. To learn more, visit http://donaldbigham.yolasite.com.