Strength in the Beauty of Strength

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Hunter Hires
  • 177th Fighter Wing

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Danielle R. Todman, the fitness monitor at the 177th Fighter Wing of the New Jersey Air National Guard, is an esteemed athlete in and out of uniform.

Using the knowledge and experience Todman gained throughout her athletic career, Todman became a coach and mentor to the Kean University Cross Country team in Union, New Jersey, and to the Airmen of the 177FW.

“Little did I know that there was going to be another strength in lifting; the power of lifting others to be themselves authentically,” said Todman. “To authentically stand strong, authentically not afraid to be different.”

In her athletic career, she runs, coaches track and field, power lifts, and bodybuilds. In the Profession of Arms, she monitors the physical fitness (PT) of more than a thousand Airmen of all statuses and positions throughout the 177FW. She plans and distributes an informational physical fitness newsletter named “The Devil Wears PT Gear” across the ANG installation to keep Airman in the know and at the top of their game.

Not only has Danielle been recognized as the 2017 Air National Guard Female Athlete of the Year, but she has also received well-deserved accolades in her civilian athletic career, such as in the International Powerlifting Foundation Reykjavik International Games in 2020, where she took third place.

“They don’t normally invite newbies. They normally invite people that have made a name,” said Todman. “Yet, here I am with an invite, and I finished within the top five. And then, I get another invitation for 2022. This year was heavily stacked, and everybody’s finishing numbers are getting closer. The top 15 are close, so for me to have an invitation extended to me was big.”

In the 2022 International Powerlifting Foundation Reykjavik International Games, Danielle understood that a place in the top five would be hard-earned. However, a friend had already set a high aspiration for her.

“My sorority sister and seven-time International Powerlifting Federation World Open Classic champion, Kim Walford, thought we could both go top three,” said Todman. “I told her, ‘You mean you’re going to go top three? You, right?’ And she said, ‘No, we’re going top three.”

When it came down to the squat, Walford came in first place and Todman fifth. The bench press moved Todman up to fourth. Then, the deadlift pulled her into the third position.

“When they called the numbers, I wasn’t paying attention. When they called my name for third, I was like, ‘What is going on?”
Walford and Todman placed first and third, just like Walford said they would.

“By choosing to be intentional, you’re helping people to be intentionally themselves,” said Todman.

Todman stated that she resolved to be more intentional in her growth, learning to love herself and be content in her skin, but not shy away from the things that chose her.

“Some people may think it's a show when we compete in powerlifting,” said Todman. “For me, it’s a ‘grow.’ I ask myself, ‘How am I growing?’ and, ‘How did I grow through the platform that chose me?”

Danielle’s growth as an athlete and a coach has led her to the opportunity to coach a junior team at the 2023 Open World Championship in Lithuania in November.

“Recently, I became the head track and field coach at Kean University,” said Todman. “We built a program that has not been around in 15 years, and we have had athletes with top-10 finishes, along with some pretty big invitations. Two of my first-year students became All-East-Coast Track and Field Championship runners and All-American Track Classic runners. My whole women’s team is Academic All-American. That has never happened in a re-establishment or rebuilding of a team. It was a historic year for me as a coach.”

Growth displays itself in many forms, including the capacity to lead within one’s focus. Todman is a proven champion in this regard and has no plan to slow down in the future.