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Comptroller Airman wins big as bodybuilding competitor

U.S. Air Force Capt. Tarah Mitchell, the 19th Comptroller Squadron financial analysis flight commander, proudly displays a photo of herself onstage at the 2016 Arnold Classic Women’s Physique competition. Mitchell placed eighth in the prestigious event. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Harry Brexel)

U.S. Air Force Capt. Tarah Mitchell, the 19th Comptroller Squadron financial analysis flight commander, proudly displays a photo of herself onstage at the 2016 Arnold Classic Women’s Physique competition. Mitchell placed eighth in the prestigious event. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Harry Brexel)

(Courtesy photo/James Patrick)

(Courtesy photo/James Patrick)

LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE, Ark. -- Each year, approximately 18,000 athletes representing more than 70 countries gather to compete in one of America's largest multi-sport festivals. But this year, one of those competitors was unlike any other.

U.S. Air Force Capt. Tarah Mitchell, 19th Comptroller Squadron financial analysis flight commander, competed in the invitation-only Arnold Sports Festival Women's Bodybuilding Physique competition on March 3, 2016. The contest was one of the premier events of the 2016 Arnold Sports Festival, in Columbus, Ohio.

Out of 54 women, Mitchell placed eighth in the 2016 Arnold Classic Women's Physique competition.

"It was the best feeling ever," Mitchell said. "Hearing my name in the top 10 and seeing my family's reaction in the crowd just made me really happy."

An active-duty Air Force finance officer since 2007, Mitchell competed and placed in several physique championships since she began her bodybuilding journey in July 2012. However, "The Arnold" is the largest show she has ever contended in.

"Bodybuilding is something that I've wanted to do since I was a little girl," Mitchell said. "I was first inspired by photos of women in fitness magazines and by my mom and dad who worked out a lot."

Along with her numerous fitness accomplishments, Mitchell has also attained two Master's Degrees and is described as an exceptional Airman by her leadership.

"She is someone who epitomizes our core value of 'Excellence in All We Do," said U.S. Air Force Maj. Michael Hickam, 19th CPTS commander. "Whatever the task or challenge, she not only meets it head on, but she succeeds and has set the standard for her Airman to follow."

Mitchell sees similarities between her service to the country and her fitness aspirations.

"Both the Air Force and bodybuilding require discipline, motivation and a value of excellence," Mitchell said. "I like to improve at each Air Force assignment I have. Bodybuilding is similar because I try to progress in each event that I compete in."

Despite the grueling regimen, Mitchell doesn't let her fitness goals conflict with her Air Force duties.  

Neither a 1,600-mile assignment change nor a deployment to the Horn of Africa hindered her commitment. During her deployment, Mitchell stocked up on healthy foods from the chow hall and prepped most of her meals. She stays in constant contact with her training partners through e-mail and phone calls.

"I believe that you make time for what you want," said Mitchell. "I train before work, after work and incorporate proper nutrition throughout the day."

Mitchell balances that routine while simultaneously being a trusted advisor to the base commander. She has a team of troops that she is responsible for and provides financial support to almost every unit on base.

Though the competition is over, Mitchell's training regimen hasn't stopped. She plans to keep striving at her career while training harder than ever.

"I'm looking forward to my next competition which is scheduled for June in Anchorage, Alaska," said Mitchell. "I plan on training and competing as long as my body will allow me to."
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