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Challenging the physical limits

A photo of an Airman lifting weights.

Senior Airman Thomas McMurray with the 387th Expeditionary Support Squadron Force Protection flight poses for a photo at Al Mubarak Air Base, Kuwait, May 13, 2021. McMurray has competed in two weight lifting competition since deploying in Kuwait, placing first with an overall score of 1,800 pounds. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kaitlyn J. Ergish)

A photo of an Airman lifting weights.

Senior Airman Thomas McMurray with the 387th Expeditionary Support Squadron Force Protection lifts weights in the gym at Al Mubarak Air Base, Kuwait, May 13, 2021. McMurray has competed in two weight lifting competition since deploying in Kuwait, placing first with an overall score of 1,800 pounds. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kaitlyn J. Ergish)

A photo of an Airman lifting weights.

Senior Airman Thomas McMurray, with the 387th Expeditionary Support Squadron Force Protection, performs a bench press exercise at Al Mubarak Air Base, Kuwait, May 13, 2021. McMurray has competed in two weight lifting competition since deploying in Kuwait, placing first with an overall score of 1,800 pounds. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kaitlyn J. Ergish)

A photo of an Airman lifting weights.

Senior Airman Thomas McMurray, with the 387th Expeditionary Support Squadron Force Protection, prepares to perform a bench press at Al Mubarak Air Base, Kuwait, May 13, 2021. McMurray has competed in two weight lifting competition since deploying in Kuwait, placing first with an overall score of 1,800 pounds. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kaitlyn J. Ergish)

A photo of an Airman lifting weights.

Senior Airman Thomas McMurray, with the 387th Expeditionary Support Squadron Force Protection, performs a bench press at Al Mubarak Air Base, Kuwait, May 13, 2021. McMurray has competed in two weight lifting competition since deploying in Kuwait, placing first with an overall score of 1,800 pounds. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kaitlyn J. Ergish)

ALI AL SALEM AIR BASE, Kuwait --

Senior Airman Thomas McMurray, currently deployed as a 387th Expeditionary Support Squadron Force Protection Airman at Al Mubarak Air Base, Kuwait, competed in a weight lifting competition and won first place with a total score of 1,800 pounds.

Starting his freshman year of high school in South Carolina, where he was born, raised and now stationed, McMurray joined the football team. At the time, he could bench 135 pounds.

“I’ve found over the past few years that lifting weights is a way for me to push myself to be better and stronger as a person, mentally and physically,” said McMurray. “I love to compete and challenge myself, and to surround myself with people who have the same mindset.”

Although McMurray now enjoys lifting, it has not been an easy feat to get to where he is.

“I really struggled at first because I had never really been interested in lifting weights before,” said McMurray. “When I started training with my teammates in high school, I’d always work out with the strongest person in the room because I thought to myself, ‘that’s where I want to be.’ I started to enjoy it because I had really great coaches and teammates pushing me to get better.”

As he slowly progressed in his weight lifting skills, he started competing in meets over the last few years – competing throughout high school, as he began his Air Force career and even now.

“I ended up graduating my senior year with a football State Championship,” said McMurray. “My lifts then were 385-pound bench, 500 squat and 500 deadlift. Since I’ve deployed in Kuwait, I’ve competed in two competitions and won both. The last competition I did was a 1,800 pound total with a 700-pound squat, 625 deadlift and a 475 bench. I felt great about hitting a new personal best on all three lifts. I’m really excited to progress more and hopefully compete professionally sometime soon.”

Even though McMurray is deployed, he still finds a way to accomplish his personal goals while encouraging his coworkers.

“McMurray has taken this time away from family and his beloved South Carolina to do something truly extraordinary,” said Master Sgt. Katherine Paul, the 387th ESPTS Force Protection flight chief. “He uses his vast knowledge of weightlifting and fitness to help mentor and guide those who are looking to make positive gains in their fitness game.”

Even in a deployed environment, McMurray found ways to challenge himself, push past his limits and ultimately inspire others to do the same.

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