Finding her strength
By Senior Airman Jonathan Stefanko, National Air and Space Intelligence Center Public Affairs
/ Published May 24, 2018
WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio -- Nervous, Staff Sgt. Bailey Jewell begins to pace around the mats lining the conference room floor.
“You need to sit down and rest while you can” her coach instructed. Jewell is focusing her energy on her upcoming turn on stage at the Sports Festival at the Greater Columbus Convention Center in Columbus, Ohio. It’s March 1 and she is ready for her shot.
Though difficult, she finds the strength to listen and looks for comfort in the familiar thud of bar bells being dropped on the other side of the room.
And as she prepares for what’s to come she hears her name called by one of the event coordinators, “Bailey Jewell, it’s time to go on stage.”
Jewell, a compliance assessor with the National Air and Space Intelligence Center Inspector General’s office, joined more than 22,000 athletes from 80 nations at the annual Columbus event. The festival featured 77 sports, including Olympic Weightlifting where Jewell lifted more than 282 pounds-- a new personal meet record. Accomplishing this goal as an active duty service member also attending college classes was no easy feat.
“My time management skills have to be top-notch when preparing for a competition,” she said. “I train around five to six days a week for almost three hours at a time and trying to balance that with my personal life can be very difficult. I love staying busy though, so it works for me.”
While she has always been active, it wasn’t until being stationed at NASIC on Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio where she was able to truly strengthen her passion.
“From the moment I joined the military I looked into CrossFit and followed numerous athletes and fitness personalities on social media,” she said. “I had always wanted to learn how to do what they were doing, they looked incredible and unbelievably strong! But it wasn’t until I arrived at NASIC that I found my first coach and now best friend who trained me on the basics of powerlifting and Olympic weightlifting—from there the rest is history.”
As a child living in Des Moines, Iowa, Jewell was no stranger to sports and credits who she is today to her father.
“My dad coached football from the time I was born to present day,” she said. “We are very similar in personality, and I probably inherited my drive from him, but unfortunately it was very difficult to find a sport I was actually good in.”
Through her earlier years, Jewell would hop from sport to sport, lacking the agility or coordination to be successful and says she was kicked out of her high school weightlifting gym class because she was the only female. But she never let failure keep her from her passion in sports and ultimately in the military.
“My love for fitness increased my desire to join the military and through these experiences I’ve changed the way I view myself for the better. I have developed a healthier lifestyle mentally, physically and emotionally,” Jewell said. “I plan to keep doing this sport until I physically cannot any longer. I would love to share a platform with some of the elite weightlifters I admire someday.”
While weightlifting competitively is not a new sport, it wasn’t until the 2000 Olympic Games the first woman was allowed to compete and from there it took off globally, Jewell noted.
“With the explosion of CrossFit, as well as younger generations of female lifters who have made a name for themselves on the platform and built enormous followings on social media, females in weightlifting or strength sports in general really, have received some well-deserved publicity,” Jewell said.
“Anyone interested in pursuing this path should just do it,” she continued. “Don’t let your dreams be dreams. If you want to be strong and accomplish something that you can say that you and you alone have earned through blood, sweat, and tears, just show up. Do the work and grind because none of it is easy for anyone.
The barbell doesn’t care about your body type, gender, orientation, race, religion, age…strength sports are the great equalizer—the most human thing you can do, and if it’s what you want, do it.”
Standing on stage, Jewell takes a moment to think about her family, friends and the support she’s received along the way and then focuses on the barbell, and almost like second nature, she takes hold of the obstacle in front of her—and lifts.