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Iron Cowboy shares story of resiliency

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Benjamin Ingold
  • 20th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

James “Iron Cowboy” Lawrence shared his story of grit, resilience and how he found the will to keep going in the face of challenges to Team Shaw Airmen, Jan. 27.

Lawrence accomplished the physical feat of completing 50 Ironman triathlons in 50 days across all 50 of the United States. Lawrence overcame lack of sleep, injury and self-doubt to prove to himself he can accomplish feats thought to be impossible.

“James personifies the values of Air Force resiliency,” said Maj. Garret Schmitz, F-16 Viper Demonstration Team pilot and commander. “We face plenty of adversity in our personal and professional lives as military members. I think his message resonates with all Airmen at Shaw.”

Lawrence began pushing himself to his limits when he lost his home and business in the 2008 economic recession. He used physical training to help him overcome the stress of providing for his family and saw the opportunity to share his experience with the world.

He faced defeat when he attempted to be one of the first people to scale Mount Kilimanjaro on a bicycle. On a particularly difficult day, he came across two U.S. veterans descending the mountain after reaching the summit. Lawrence listened to their stories about deployments and combat experience and changed his perspective.

“We had a different attitude the next day when we took off,” said Lawrence. “We were the first group of people to make it to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro on our bikes. I thought about that group of veterans on the summit and it filled me with gratitude.”

As part of his 20th Viper Demo immersion, Lawrence attended egress and emergency parachute deployment training, toured an F-16 Fighter Squadron and flew in the back seat of an F-16 Viper to experience the mission of the wing first-hand.

Schmitz and his team showed Lawrence F-16 basic fighter maneuvers, parts of the Viper Demonstration aerial performance routine and pull nine times his bodyweight, or nine Gs.

Lawrence said he hopes his story of defeating the physical and mental challenges he faced will resonate people and inspire them to be grateful for what they have and help them overcome the obstacles in their personal and professional lives.

“It was an honor to speak to the Airmen on Shaw Air Force Base,” said Lawrence. “It was mind-blowing to see what everyone on the base can do and what they can accomplish together.”