JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas –
What started as a simple interest in weightlifting for an Airman has transformed into breaking national records as a member of the Air Force National Powerlifting Team.
Tech. Sgt. Benjamin Le, 149th Force Support Squadron member at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, recently competed March 19 in the Military, Police, and FireFighter National Championship in Atlanta, Georgia after a six-year hiatus.
Le first started powerlifting over 10 years ago after arriving at his first active duty station and became hooked on the sport shortly thereafter. His first supervisor, now retired Senior Master Sgt. Lorenzo Peterson, saw the potential in Le and guided him into the world of powerlifting and ultimately to the Air Force Team.
“He showed me the ropes, helped me with my goals and even signed me up for my first meet,” Le said.
Under Peterson’s guidance, Le began training and preparing for his first meet in Colorado.
Le went into his local competition with no expectations, in the end, he lifted a combined total of more than quadruple his body weight.
“Technique is stronger than raw strength, the goal is to keep being active and competitive,” Peterson said before Le’s first meet.
Once he realized the potential his strength held, Le’s commitment to the sport solidified. Since then, powerlifting has been a source of solace for Le and has pushed him to excel in both his Air Force and civilian careers.
“Powerlifting is how I stay grounded,” Le said. “Lifting is not just about working out. Being in the gym has multiple meanings. I go because powerlifting helps me be alive. It’s the reason I stay positive and happy every day.”
In addition to staying in excellent shape for competition, Le’s other duties demand the same physicality.
In the Air National Guard, Le assists with the 149th Fatality Search and Recovery Team, a job that entails finding and recovering remains after a chemical disaster. He also serves as a U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer in a civilian capacity. Powerlifting keeps Le feeling equipped and ready to serve the community.
After joining the Air Force’s official powerlifting team in 2013, Le placed at all three national powerlifting meets he competed in, and powerlifting became an integral section of his life.
In 2019, Le suffered a back injury that forced him to take time off from lifting to recover. When Le realized that he wasn’t able to continue to lift at his current capacity, he looked to others for motivation.
“What helped me was having a strong support system and having people around to push me,” Le said. “I want to come back stronger than ever. When you get down, you’ve got to come back up and take an extra step forward.”
Le reunited with his former members of the Air Force Powerlifting Team when he competed in Atlanta last week.
“The moment when you're on the platform and everyone around you is supporting you no matter what, that’s the feeling that I’ve been missing,” Le said.
For the championship, Le competed at a weight of 148 pounds with a goal of squatting 452 pounds, benching 303 pounds, and deadlifting 501 pounds.
“It’ll be tough, but I believe I can do it,” he said.
Le is more concerned with the whole powerlifting experience than a particular outcome.
“Just know, win or lose at least you did it and learned from your mistakes. There’s no losing – it’s actually learning,” Le said.