Story by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Mike Pernick
PHILIPPINE SEA – Under the glow of yellow lights inside USS John C. Stennis’ (CVN 74) hangar bay a group of Sailors wrap their wrists and shadow box as they wait for their turn to hit the training mitts.
In the middle, quickly slipping away from punches and returning them even quicker, is Aviation Structural Mechanic Airman Tommy Chronister from, De Soto, Missouri.
When he was 15 years old, Chronister started training as a boxer in order to protect himself. Eventually, he became obsessed with training.
“All I was focused on was training and lifting,” said Chronister. “I would get home from school, and drive an hour-and-a-half to the boxing gym every day.”
His competitive mindset and encouragement from his trainer led him to enter tournaments. Chronister made it to regional and even national “Golden Gloves” boxing tournaments.
“I remember my first fight when I was about 16,” said Chronister. “Walking through the tunnel inside the arena, music was blasting, lights flaring, the crowd was buzzing and all I could think was, ‘Oh my god, this is awesome!'”
Chronister won the St. Louis Golden Gloves tournament three years in a row, then moved onto regionals, and eventually earned a chance to qualify to compete in the 2012 Olympics.
He said although he lost his first Olympic-qualifying fight, eliminating him from advancement, it was an incredible experience.
While Chronister takes every opportunity he can to continue his training, he didn’t realize how much he could keep up with it while the ship is underway.
“When I first came to the ship, I did a lot of training on my own at gyms in Seattle and the surrounding area,” said Chronister. “One time, when the ship was underway I saw a few people hitting the training pads and shadow boxing in the hangar bay, and I could tell they were good. They had some fighting experience.”
Chronister said it was a great way to meet people on the ship who share some of the same experiences and interests as himself.
“A bunch of people kept coming out of the woodworks, showing off photos and videos of themselves training and competing with top-name guys,” said Chronister. “I even realized that we competed at some of the same places nationally.”
Chronister meets up with other Sailors each week to work on their skills and learn from each other.
He said he enjoys teaching others because training is unending as there are always new techniques to learn and fundamentals to reestablish.
“The thing I like most about training with other people is that it makes me relearn the basics,” said Chronister. “Sometimes you get to a level where you’re overlooking basic skills and fundamentals that make you a great fighter in the first place.”
For Chronister, training to fight involves a lot of self-discipline and commitment. It’s not just keeping in shape, it involves staying mentally sharp as well.
“It’s a great way to relieve stress,” said Chronister. “Training keeps me balanced and I’m glad I have friends to train with while the ship is underway. I plan on doing it for as long as I can.”
Providing a ready force supporting security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific, John C. Stennis is operating as part of the Great Green Fleet on a regularly scheduled 7th Fleet deployment.