PORTLAND, Ore. --
Chief Master Sgt. Shawn Harbert is the chief QA (Quality Assurance) inspector for the 142nd Maintenance Group at Portland Air National Guard Base, Oregon. A dedicated member of the military with 25 years in service, Harbert knows the value of physical and mental fitness and resiliency.
He recently competed in the 2019 Howard Cohen American Masters Weightlifting Competition where he took third place overall and reached his goal of qualifying for the U.S. Masters National Competition.
Harbert has been lifting since high school, but over the years his physical fitness routine has varied between lifting and CrossFit. Over the past year, however, Harbert has refocused and started lifting competitively after a friend took up the sport and started competing.
To prepare himself for his most recent competition, Harbert lifted 3 to 4 times per week on average. He says the competition is really a means to track his progress over time. This is both gratifying and motivating for Harbert.
“For me, specifically, when I look back over the last year, what motivates me most in it is being able to look back at a period of time and see progress,” says Harbert. “In the mix of it, you don’t see the little bits of changes that happen.”
Over the past year, Harbert has seen a 16 kilogram difference between his initial competition in January 2019 and his latest in November.
The Howard Cohen American Masters Weightlifting Competition is one in which participants compete against others in their age and weight categories. Competitors complete a series of lifts varying between the snatch, a fluid-motion lift starting from the ground and going overhead in a single motion; and the clean and jerk, a lift that goes from ground to shoulder, then from shoulder to overhead. The clean and jerk is usually completed with more weight compared to the snatch.
At this event, Harbert achieved a 72 kilogram snatch and a 112 kilogram clean and jerk. He walked away with 3 medals: bronze in the snatch, silver in the clean and jerk, and bronze overall in his age and weight group.
Harbert says that being a part of the weightlifting community has shown him the value of camaraderie.
“The masters weightlifting community as a whole is very supportive,” says Harbert. “Everybody supports [each other] where they’re at.”
The sport offers participants like Harbert the opportunity to have fun and be around people who share a similar mindset. Harbert says the support he receives from the community helps him to push through setbacks and persevere in order to meet his goals.
“One day really stands out to me,” says Harbert. “ I was lifting and physically and mentally I was really drained, and I remember failing simple light-weight lifts and just being really down on myself and my coach just grabbed me and said, ‘Snap out of it. Just do what you have to do and get done’”
“You’re going to have lulls and high points,” says Harbert. Being able to push through the low points is key.
For Harbert, being physically active and dedicated to his goals impacts all aspects of his life, from military to work and family life. As a Chief Master Sgt. in the Oregon Air National Guard, he sets the example for Airmen who look up to him.
Harbert’s goal for 2020 is to qualify for the Masters World Championship when he competes in the Masters National Championships in Orlando, Florida, this April 16-19, 2020. In order to do this, he will need to achieve a 199 kilogram total which is an additional 15 kilogram on his best total from 2019.