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COVID-19 Archive

Images and Stories from Vermont

Working for the National Guard and Training to be a Strongman

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Working for the National Guard and Training to be a Strongman


A sergeant in the Vermont Army National Guard tells his story of being pressed into service and training to be a strongman.


SGT Wilson


May 1, 2020

Spatial Coverage


My mother reached out to me and thought that you all might get a kick out of my story since all of this COVID-19 malarkey started. I was at work and thankfully still employed by my employer who is still open! Even now doing the best they can for their employees! Go Collins Aerospace! I am also a Sargent in the Vermont Army National Guard, and employed through them as a helicopter mechanic. I had been receiving calls asking for volunteers to help out with the National Guards' efforts, and while I was still employed, I also wanted to do my best to help out as best I could, so I raised my hand. Then one day in the middle of the work day, I got the "pack your shit" call to arms.

2 Days later I was in uniform, helping build in rapid succession one of the most cost effective, highest quality emergency care facilities ever built in recent history. It was pretty damn cool! We worked long 12 hour (or longer) days on State Active Duty to get the 400 bed facility built inside the Champlain Valley Exposition Center. We got it done, and proceeded to get national recognition for it as well! Complete with beds, power to each bed, running water, rest rooms, locker rooms, and isolation wing and a whole lot of motivation. Almost felt like I was in my own Army National Guard Commercial "Just like you see on TeeVee! Ma!!" haha

All the non medical folks (like myself) have since been trained as Orderlies and have been assisting full time staff with the care and supervision of our patients ever since. Super cool! Great learning and a lot of fun, a lot of the patients are older long term care patients and are great fun to chat and talk with, they all have a pretty great sense of humor and seem to take comfort in the fact that they are in good hands with the VT Guard, Airforce and Army alike! But what about life outside of all this? Home life etc? Well, my KETO diet kinda went the way of the Dodo, but what about the rest?

Well, all the gyms closed their doors, and for gym rats like me that took a bit of a toll at first. I love the Army and all but push-ups get boring after you've done as many as a lot of us have. So I decided to take motivation from my favorite sport, the world of Strongman. For years I have watched the likes of Mateusz Kieliszkowski, Halfthor Bjornson, Eddie Hall, and Brian Shaw, and my favorite Marius Pudianowski, lift massive implements for the glory of becoming the Worlds' Strongest Man. The part of the sport that I always loved the most was that the events almost always involve every day implements, like stones, kegs, cars, sand bags, logs, boats etc. It all sounds so Army x 1000, with that utilitarian mindset of "you want a workout? go pick that up!"

One video in particular really motivated me for what came next:
Matuesz Kieliszkowski lifting the 410 lb Odd Haugen Tombstone (natural stone) to his shoulder a Record 5 Times at the 2019 Arnold Strongman Classic in OH.

So I decided get to work. I put my two saw horses together and nailed a small sheet of plywood on top to make a sort of table, then started scouring my yard and the VT countryside for good stones to lift. All in all I came up with a great little gym, with 2 cinder blocks weighing about 44 lb each (from my yard) a wooden 2x2 cut stick for a barbell to hang the cinder blocks from, and a collection of stones to make any caveman jealous. With weights ranging from 8 - 135 pounds, plus two red bricks for stretching and warm ups, I had my gym, plus a step stool ladder for a bench.

While I am certain I get some bizarre looks from my neighbors as they walk by and see me walking up and down my driveway carrying heavy rocks, or repeatedly hoisting them to my shoulders in alternating fashion, I have also gotten a few words of encouragement from fellow guard members, and some folks walking by my house and admiring my ingenuity. I was so proud, the other day I was able to hoist my 135 lb stone to my shoulder for the first time (see attached video)! Something I had previously thought not possible for me! I was so proud I even sent the video to a bunch of friends!

My Mom thought my story was worth sharing, and I rememberd my Adjutant General, Brigadier General Knight of the VT National Guard, told us all to "Tell our story!" So I figured it would be OK to share this all with you.

I was a Blackhawk Helicopter Mechanic and Maintenance Team Lead Sargent, recently returned from Iraq. Now I am a Medical Orderly, Carpenter, and Amateur Strongman.

I wonder what else the world has in store?! Whatever it is, I hope I can help!

Stay Healthy and God Bless!



SGT Wilson, “Working for the National Guard and Training to be a Strongman,” COVID-19 Archive, accessed June 18, 2024,