Bodybuilding helps recruiter lift the weight of life

  • Published
  • By Chrissy Cuttita
  • Air Force Recruiting Service Public Affairs

“Make muscles not excuses” is the motto one recruiter uses to describe her current situation.

Master Sgt. Lisa Schuur, of the 332nd Recruiting Squadron, recently walked away with five first place medals after competing in her first National Physique Committee bodybuilding competition, the NPC Southern Muscle Showdown National Qualifier in Dalton, Georgia, Oct. 1, 2022.

“I was talking to one of the photographers after the show and he was surprised at how I was still in the Air Force and can compete at such a high level,” she said. “That honestly made me feel super proud.”

Conversations like this give Airmen an opportunity to show someone what their day in a life can be like while serving their country.  Air Force Recruiting Service has discovered this engagement is especially important in today’s challenging recruiting environment where Americans are less and less familiar with what it means to be in the Air Force.

Schuur was no different.  She doesn’t remember any recruiters visiting her high school, but she had some familiarity with the Army and the Navy as a career option. However, it wasn’t until she had an opportunity to visit an Air Force base for an air show she said the idea of joining was sold in her mind.

“I literally said at that moment I’m going to join the Air Force, so I went to a recruiter’s office, and they didn’t have to sell me at all,” said the Wasilla, Alaska, native. “I knew the military lifestyle and I knew about the benefits, and I wanted to go to school without paying for it. I was working different minimum wage jobs and wasn’t doing anything that was going to better my life at all. I was just living paycheck to paycheck.”

At the time, she was looking for tuition assistance and was happy to learn all newly enlisted Airmen are enrolled in the Community College of the Air Force was an added benefit.

“I was 21 when I joined and I didn’t know what my long-term plan was,” Schuur said. “I realized adulting wasn’t as fun as you think it’s going to be paying your bills and such. I figured joining would give me time to think about what I wanted to do and go to school. Here I am now 16 years later, and it obviously has been good to me otherwise I would have got out a long time ago.”

She is currently working on her bachelor’s degree with a goal for a master’s degree but also managed to get addicted to a new hobby at the gym.

“I’ve always been a person who wanted to be in shape and represent the Air Force well in uniform by being fit,” Schuur said. “About a year and half ago my friend got me into lifting weights, and I instantly got addicted to it. My stress level as a flight chief in recruiting was pretty high so the gym was an amazing outlet for me to just focus on myself and my wellbeing, whether mental or physical.”

She said it started as a fun activity but then people started to take notice.  They’d ask her if she’d consider competing, but it wasn’t until a coworker showed her a flyer for a local show that she got serious and sought help to learn the poses and the nutrition required to win.  

“When that became my goal. I got a coach who sets the plan for me I follow,” Schuur said. “I dove head in. When I do something, I don’t do halfway. If I’m going to do it, I go all the way.”  

That is the same mentality she has about serving in the Air Force. Schuur plans to continue being a recruiter until she retires.  She initially joined the Air Force in 2007 and had multiple assignments in the finance career field in the U.S. and abroad before she became a recruiter in 2017.

Those who have worked with her have said she has drive and a deep sense of purpose.

“I watched Master Sgt. Schuur fight for us to have resources, training and not to settle for being last in our squadron,” said Master Sgt. Shaun Hammond. “That ‘why’ burns inside of her and was imparted to us. Because of that, our flight went from being bottom to one of the best flights.”

Schuur didn’t back down when her first local bodybuilding competition yielded results that ignited some frustration.  Fueled to be better, the sergeant immediately signed up for a national show at the last minute. She kept training and pushed harder, putting off all the foods she wanted to eat in the short week time span she had to practice.

Schuur won all five classes she entered at the NPC show; true novice, novice, open, heroes and masters. That qualified her for nationals, a key step in getting her International Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness Pro Card.

“For it to be my first show to win the NPC open category was one of the happiest moments of my life,” she said. “When I look back at the pictures and videos I get the biggest smile just remembering how it felt, how I accomplished all of that. I realized that going through a show prep for bodybuilding is definitely not an easy task. On top of it I’m taking two college classes, being a single mom, working as a flight chief … doing all these things at the same time. I feel super accomplished.”

Her teammates can vouch for her success.

“Master Sgt. Schuur taught me (us) to have no excuses, to find solutions and make things better for everyone,” Hammond said. “We also couldn’t just think about that at our flight level but also the squadron, group and Air Force level.”

Schuur feels like she is a role model to others proving you can accomplish a lot regardless of what is on your plate. Making it a priority to get done what needs to be done before competition sets the pace for the Schuur’s daily life.  For her recruiting schedule, she has already had to demonstrate sharp organizational skills.

“In my zone, for F Flight, I’m the flight chief with an area of responsibility of about 8,000 square miles and I’m split between two states,” she said. “I have six recruiters and an administrative assistant to cover the responsibilities for my three offices I manage.”

Her job requires frequent traveling within the area from her Rome, Georgia, office to take care of people and the mission there and in Cleveland, Tennessee, and Chattanooga, Tennessee.   

“Trying to find qualified individuals is a struggle,” said Schuur. “There is constant change in the recruiting process we have to adapt and overcome.”

One of those challenges AFRS has identified is having to get recruiters prepared to take on in-person events after only having virtual experience recruiting during the pandemic. That is something Schuur had to personally teach her team by walking alongside them to show them how it is done.

The aspiring pro-card bodybuilder gets just as excited at seeing her results at the gym as she does for her teammates when they make a difference in the lives of others by giving them a career in the Air Force.

“The fact we are able to offer so many good opportunities to individuals we are bringing into the Air Force is a great feeling, especially when you have those people who are really struggling and they don’t know what direction to go in life,” she said. “We’ve had some applicants who were so happy to go to MEPS (Military Entrance Processing Station) because they got free food at the hotel and that broke my heart. To know we are changing lives and giving people an opportunity to make something of themselves is awesome.”