Doctor, 1st sergeant team up for Armed Forces Triathlon

  • Published
  • By Patrick Desmond
  • 37th Training Wing Public Affairs
The 342nd Training Squadron's first sergeant used to be a mean 200-pound, 375-pound bench-pressing machine.

Now, three years later, he's an Air Force triathlete.

Heading into his first Air Force team selection and Armed Forces Triathlon May 30 at age 40, Anthony Milunas boasts a 29 and 1/2-inch waist, a lean 150-pound frame and an experienced teammate in Lackland's seven-time Air Force triathlete, James Bales.

From Mack truck to speedy Corvette, Milunas' decision to change his philosophy toward physical fitness came when he was challenged to a footrace and lost.

"It was one time around a mile track," Milunas said. "I barely finished; it wasn't pretty."

His transition from weightlifting to triathlons was also problematic in the pool.

While working at the Wilford Hall Medical Center as a physical therapist, Milunas found an opportunity to combine his love for a challenge with some pointers from Bales, senior resident orthopedic surgeon.

"When I met (Dr. Bales) I really wasn't a swimmer at all," Milunas said. "He said come with me three times a week, and I promise you, you'll be a good swimmer. I took his challenge and worked hard, and now I am an Air Force triathlete."

Bales remembers jumping in after Milunas on their first day swimming together, but has found his perseverance remarkable.

"To go from pounding weights and protein shakes to getting on the bike for four to six hours at a time and hammering out 20-mile runs," Bales said, "has been a complete lifestyle change. "To go through that transition, it's very impressive."

The teammates have been training at the Skylark Pool three times a week at 4:30 a.m. along with a group of other Lackland athletes, including triathletes Karrn Bales and Laura Baugh, and marathon runner Chris Edgerton.

"If it's an early crew, we're in the water before five," Bales said about the group that has been meeting for the past four years. "It's a pretty dedicated group of 12 to 15 athletes just getting after it."

One benefit of the group is aggregating experiential knowledge gained from competition. 

"I am one of the veterans who knows it better than anyone," Bales said about the Armed Forces course at Naval Base Ventura County, Calif. "It helps, especially just knowing the turns and anticipating some of the team tactics."

In particular, Milunas said they have been working on 25-meter underwater swims designed to get ahead of the cramped field to start the race.

Still, like all Air Force athletes, the effort and time devoted by the triathletes has to be found within a regular workday.

"It's one of those things where you become so dedicated it is a part of your day," Bales said. "You just work in (workouts) as you would a meal."

For Bales, that means biking to and from work while Milunas uses a swim trainer in his office.

Milunas said his position as first shirt for combat control and pararescue career fields makes fitness a priority.

"I wanted to be first sergeant at the 342nd, the best athletes in the Air Force," Milunas said.

Milunas is always on call, and early training sessions are often the most convenient.

"People are my business," he said, "I don't have the time to train but at 4 a.m."

The pair also competed in the Capital of Texas triathlon as early as last week in Austin.
But the real challenge awaits at the interservice triathlon event.

Milunas, competing in his second triathlon, is shooting for a time of 10:45, while Bales hinted at the possibility of taking first place as rival Navy triathlete Timothy O'Donnell has dropped from the contest.

"This is my seventh trip, and I think I have been runner up most of those times," Bales said. "He and I would duel every year, but now he's out, so it's an open field."

The course includes a 1,500-meter swim, 24.8-mile bike ride and a 6.2-mile run with individuals and teams competing.