PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. (AFNS) -- (This feature is part of the "Through Airmen's Eyes" series. These stories focus on individual Airmen, highlighting their Air Force story.)
In the Air Force, fitness isn't just a stepping stone to success, it’s a requirement. While each Airman has their own idea of how to stay fit to fight, 1st Lt. Roman Tillman has picked a practice that he believes also sharpens his skills as an Airman and a leader.
Tillman, a 5th Space Launch Squadron responsible engineer, is a men's physique competitor working toward his International Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness pro card. So far, he has had success in competing and winning first place in his first two competitions.
"The first win was at the Orlando metropolitan competition in April. I won first place out of four competitors," Tillman said. "My next competition was the Orlando Europa Games in May. It's one of the biggest, if not the biggest shows in all of Florida. I took first place in my class of 22 competitors and became nationally qualified."
Tillman attended his first national show July 24, and he placed in the top 18 of 36 competitors at the National Physique Committee’s USA Championships in Las Vegas. Although he did not meet his goal of placing in the top two, which would have earned him his pro card, Tillman plans to continue to train until he reaches his goal.
Tillman's passion for bodybuilding grew from his competitive spirit as an athlete. He played college baseball with his sights set on becoming a professional baseball player, but a shoulder injury prevented him from pursing it further.
"I played college baseball (for) Florida Community College (at) Jacksonville and earned a Division I scholarship to play at Western Carolina University. Unfortunately, my shoulder injury prevented me from ever attending WCU, but it did allow me to join the Air Force."
Tillman continued to weight train after joining the Air Force, and others who saw his potential and encouraged him to pursue bodybuilding.
"I have always been told that I should compete in bodybuilding, and last year, I decided to commit 100 percent to competing in my first NPC men's physique competition," Tillman said.
Although he has experienced major successes in bodybuilding, Tillman has also encountered many challenges.
"It takes dedication and commitment. When your friends are out partying, you're in the gym. When your significant other wants to go to dinner, if it's not a cheat meal night, you stick to one of your six prepped meals for the day," he said.
Tillman attributes much of his success in men's physique training to the values he's learned as an Airman.
"When I think about how being an Airman makes me a good men's physique competitor, I think about the core values of excellence and integrity,” he said. “If I want to be excellent in a competition, I have to be dedicated and disciplined enough to go to the gym every day and put in the hard work it takes to get my body where it needs to be. I also have to have integrity. I can't cheat on my meals and not tell my coaches because they won't be able to adjust my program correctly to make me successful.”
Tillman also credits his accomplishments to his support network of coaches, teammates, family and friends who recognized his potential in bodybuilding and continue to push him further.
"Roman has contagious enthusiasm, extreme dedication and an absolute passion for the sport,” said Amanda Conomon, one of Tillman's bodybuilding coaches. “We are extremely proud of how he has led by example even through the toughest time during his prep. He is an incredible athlete and a great friend."