Airman Powers through Weight of Life and More

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Cristina J. Allen
  • 177th Fighter Wing

Airman, Athlete, Trainer, Coach, Mentor.

These are just a few words to describe Tech. Sgt. Danielle R. Todman, an Air National Guard Athlete of the Year, a championship power lifter, a high school track and field coach and a mentor to special needs children.

Though a decorated athlete and professional, Todman expressed her hardships of being made fun of for her body type and her being strong, while growing up.

 “I was bullied and heavily mocked for my physique and how strong I was, so I originally strayed away from those things that showcased that,” said Todman, her dark brown eyes saddening.

She began her athletic career at Bishop George Ahr High School, competing in track and field, and continued her academic career at Bucknell University where she also competed in their track and field program.

“It took me a long time but I finally saw the strength and beauty behind being strong,” said Todman.

Todman then enlisted into the active duty Air Force in 2006 where she competed on the United States Track Team and the United States Air Force Track Team.

“I had just missed out on competing in the Olympics in Italy, so I had taken myself out of the game for a while,” said Todman, a 34-year-old track and field coach. “At that time I was going through a tough marriage, so the battle took me out of the opportunities and the blessings.”

She then enlisted with the New Jersey Air National Guard’s 177th Fighter Wing in 2013 as a traditional guardsman and in 2015 she was selected to represent the United States in the Military World Games 400m hurdles event.

Todman was selected as the 2017 Air National Guard Female Athlete of the Year for her athletic accomplishments.

“Your story opens doors for others, you plant the seed that they can have the same opportunities,” said Todman, squared away in her Air Force uniform. “That’s what you want to do as a coach or supervisor, inspire those you teach to see the bigger picture.

In her civilian career she is a personal trainer and coaches the Newark Technical High School track team.

“All 11 of my high school seniors that I coached in track and field received academic scholarships,” said Todman. “Your hard work could inspire someone so I try to show my athletes to focus on the good.”

She also teaches and mentors special needs children outside of her athletic training, coaching and military career.

“I do one-on-one special education for children in pre-school and kindergarten,” said Todman, as a smile lights up her face. “I had this kid Georgie, and he had a hard time speaking, so I asked him to show me. He had someone who finally understood and could communicate with him. It was amazing to be with him through his progress and everyday off the bus he would run and give me the biggest hug.”

Aside from her ability to help others grow and succeed, she endured some hardships in the past year, but still persevered to accomplish the goals she had set.

“I was overworked, overlooked, overwhelmed, undervalued and underappreciated but the lesson and blessing in it is if you focus on the good and you still persevere, the good will come,” said Todman, clasping her hands tightly.

Todman received 2nd Place for overall qualifying total points in the 17th Annual IPF/NAPF North American Regional Powerlifting Championships help in San José, Costa Rica, held on August 5-10, 2019.

“After I lifted my last lift and they called my name, I had tears in my eyes,” said Todman, disbelievingly. “I thought, this is real, I’m on an international stage. It’s like something you read about in someone else’s story, but it’s my story.”

Placing 2nd in the regional championship qualifies her for the 2020 International Powerlifting Federation World Championships.

“Powerlifting opened so many doors, but I didn’t think it was going to open the door to this past competition,” said Todman. “You’re competing against everyone in the Caribbean, Latin American, North American and Canadian powerlifting federations. It was very humbling.”

Todman discovered powerlifting while deployed overseas.

“I didn’t choose powerlifting,” said Todman, softly. “I was in the gym while on active duty in Qatar where I met my coach. I fell in love with powerlifting, though it was very new to me. It mirrors so much of what we face in life, every single day. The weights are heavy, the stress, the pressure, the judgement, but through all of that, you still have to push and pull through the journey.”

Todman considers herself a native of New Jersey, though she and her family are from St. Thomas, a U.S. Territory in the Virgin Islands, who she will be representing when she competes in the World Championships.

“Other opportunities have opened up for me to compete in the World Master’s Track and Field Championship, and probably representing the Virgin Islands, in both track and field and powerlifting,” said Todman. “Originally I’m from New Jersey, but I was raised in St. Thomas. The majority of my family still lives there.”

She has a deep admiration for her mother, who ran for the Rutgers Newark Track and Field program, describing her as her own inspiration.

“I don’t know how my mother did what she did by herself, but her strength was unreal,” said Todman, taking a deep breath. “My mother truly raised me on strength and love.”

Through all of her incredible accomplishments, she remains humble and just hopes to do her best to inspire and open up opportunities for others.

“When you teach, coach and supervise you don’t realize what eyes are on you, not because they’re judging you but because they are looking to you,” said Todman. “They are looking to you for support, encouragement, or inspiration.”

These opportunities could also potentially qualify her for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, for track and field.

“We will have to see, but it’s a potential possibility for me to compete in the Olympics in Tokyo,” said Todman, smiling.

Aside from her athletic training, her military career, and mentoring young adults and children, caring for and inspiring others seem to be the most important priorities to Todman.

“Through all the years of hard work, it takes perseverance,” said Todman, eyes thoughtful. “I know the battles will be hard, but I know whatever story is meant to be is meant to be, and hopefully whoever I’m meant to inspire, will be inspired.”