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Soldier’s loss leads to powerlifting triumph

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By THOMAS GAGNIER

January 20 marked a year since her youngest brother, who suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, committed suicide. The next day, Jennifer Palacios channeled that pain into three Florida powerlifting records.

Assigned to U.S. Central Command operations division as a movement coordinator, Palacios, an Army reservist, was introduced to powerlifting in 2015 while attending an Advanced Leader Course at Fort Devens, Massachusetts. While there, she met her boyfriend, Scott Baranek, a Master Fitness Trainer Course instructor for the Army Reserve.

Dealing with chronic aches and pains from a diagnosis of osteoarthritis in her right knee, Palacios took the advice of Baranek, then her trainer, who suggested incorporating more heavy lifting into her workouts.

“Little did I know at the time, two years later, I would be competing in powerlifting,” she said.

A mother of three, Palacios trains first thing in the morning while maintaining a bustling daily schedule. She decided to enter her first competitive powerlifting tournament over Christmas last year.

“I’m a strong believer in doing something each day that is out of your comfort zone,” Palacios said. “What would I have to lose?”

On Jan. 21 at the Blessed Iron Training Center in Largo, Florida, Palacios competed in the Raw Sub Master (33-39) age division at the American Powerlifting Association Thunder Bay Throwdown.

She squatted 230 pounds, also breaking a state record, while tying the state bench press record with 160 pounds.

“In a way, my determination had a lot to do with the feeling of honoring my brother,” Palacios said, after breaking the deadlift record by almost 100 pounds, hoisting a hefty 340.

Her total weight lifted for the meet tallied a whopping 730 pounds, setting another state record in her division.

Last year, Palacios attended the Army Master Fitness Trainer course at Fort Knox, which trains selected Soldiers in all aspects of the Army’s physical
readiness training system.

“The military has allowed me to pursue opportunities in a field in which I love: exercise and sports science,” Palacios said. ”I give back by coaching and mentoring fellow
comrades and colleagues with their health and nutrition goals.”

“Her recent record setting accomplishments, selfless service and dedication to the Centcom mission are examples of how she exemplifies Army values every day,” said Centcom Operations Division Commander Lt. Col. Diane Meleen. “I am proud of her accomplishments and thankful she is a member of my team.”

Palacios said that powerlifting has been a source of healing as she deals with recent physical and emotional setbacks.

“The competition in which I set state records was my first, definitely not my
last, as I plan to compete soon again,” Palacios said. “I have found that something that has always been a passion, hobby and habit of mine. Exercise has really helped me get through an extremely rough
year.”