SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. --
(Editor's Note: "I am SCHRIEVER" is a diversity campaign dedicated to recognizing the diversity within the base as well as highlight the way this diversity makes us stronger and better able to ensure mission success.)
She worked for more than two years to achieve a dream, and then almost missed her date with destiny.
After a personally disappointing finish at a show in June, Staff Sgt. Victoria Jenks, 310th Operations Group inspector, had decided she was going to sit out the 2015 National Physique Committee USA Bodybuilding Championships July 24-25 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
"My husband was the one that pushed me and said, 'Let's try one more'," Jenks said.
Fortunately she followed his advice, and won her class in the Figure division and earned her International Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness pro card.
"For two and a half years I've been going after [my pro card]," Jenks said. "I feel like all my hard work has finally paid off."
Jenks' coach, Evie Rae, owner of JAKTMuscle in Colorado Springs and herself an IFBB pro, said she knew when she first met Jenks in 2013 that she had what it took to become an IFBB pro.
"Earning a pro card in this extremely competitive federation is very hard work, requiring commitment to a lifestyle that most cannot stick to for a month, let alone three years," Rae said. "[My] first impression of Victoria was that she was very polite and determined about her goals and what she wanted to accomplish. I knew right away she would work hard enough to become an IFBB pro."
Rae also recommended Jenks go to the show in Vegas, realizing that Jenks was prepared for the show.
"My advice to her was that she was already conditioned and ready, so we needed to try one more show this season," Rae said. "She did nothing wrong at the June show, she was perfect so we didn't need to improve on anything, just keep pushing."
Coincidentally or not, Jenks' husband played a major role in getting her bodybuilding career started. While not a competitor himself, his passion for fitness and weight lifting helped her develop her own love affair with the gym.
"It became one of those things where he was like, 'If you're going to date me, I'm going to spend most of my time in the gym so you're either going to have to come to the gym or you're not going to see me as much as you would like,'" she said. "So I started to go to the gym with him and just developed a love and passion for it."
She said after a couple of years training with her husband, she realized bodybuilding was something she wanted to pursue competitively. Her husband would compete alongside her, but his love for donuts is too much to overcome, she joked.
Jenks ended up finding Rae and began training with her regularly. In the process Jenks became one of Rae's first sponsored athletes.
"She's been there with me since the beginning and I'm all about loyalty," Jenks said. "She's [been] good [to me] through the process."
The process hasn't been without its challenges. It's not always easy to gain acceptance as a woman competing in an area that's predominately been associated with men. Though Jenks said most of her struggles have been helping people outside the world of bodybuilding understand her passion and desire for the sport.
"A lot of people don't understand it, or they don't understand the idea of why I love to do this, why I like to look muscular," Jenks said. "I always have people that say, 'That's gross, women shouldn't have muscles, that's for men.' The fact that they let us now do a sport that was predominantly male for so long just shows that we can train just as hard, we can follow a passion for something we love just like males do."
Of course, bodybuilding wasn't the first time Jenks entered a field predominantly occupied by men. Jenks entered the Active Reserve in 2011, first serving with the 6th Space Operations Squadron, before moving to 310 OG.
"There are some times where I run into people and they think that women shouldn't have a strong place in the military," she said. "They feel like women shouldn't be in these stronger positions and I think we'll always have that, outside and in the military."
Her co-workers have been highly supportive of her, both as an Airman and as a professional bodybuilder.
"My unit is super supportive," she said. "They're always asking when my next show is, and if my shows were local they would definitely be there."
They may also want to know when a show is coming up to prepare for the smell of tilapia and asparagus to waft through the office, she jokingly added.
Rae sees how Jenks' role as an Airman has helped with her bodybuilding career, and vice versa.
"Being an Airman has made her a very committed athlete, able to withstand the routine of diet and the intensity of daily training," she said. "I think Victoria would agree that the strong character that is built through the fire of this sport has made her a better Airman, wife, friend, co-worker and sister. I think the high level of self-discipline required to be successful in this sport transfers over to everything in Victoria's life."
Now that she has achieved her goal, Jenks said she will take the remainder of the year off from competition in order to prepare for her first season on the pro circuit.
"The pros are huge, so I'm going to need to put on a lot more muscle," she said. "Now my training is going to be just bringing the ultimate best package that I can bring every single time."
Rae has no doubt Jenks will be able to achieve great things in her pro career.
"I have always seen Victoria at the very top of this sport," she said. "I know I will see her on the Olympia stage one day if she chooses to continue on this journey."
As for the role of women, both in the military and bodybuilding, she said the more accomplishments women make the more people's eyes will open to the fact that women are capable of achieving even greater things.
"I think that with these new things that they're introducing to the Air Force and other military branches for women to join and be involved in, and the fact that women are completing them, is opening everybody's eyes to the fact that we can do it too," she said. "You start to inspire both sexes. It's empowering to be able to walk into a gym or somewhere and a guy say, 'Oh wow, you inspire me.'"