NPC Senior Chief Prepares to Leave Legacy of Fitness

Story Number: NNS141121-12Release Date: 11/21/2014 3:04:00 PM
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By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jeff Atherton, Naval Support Activity, Mid-South Public Affairs

MILLINGTON, Tenn. (NNS) -- It is the season for the Navy's semiannual physical fitness assessment (PFA) and Sailors across the fleet have been preparing for two minutes of intense push-ups, two minutes of intense curl-ups and an all-out cardio-respiratory event.

Many Sailors may dread this season, but for Senior Chief Boatswain's Mate John Burks, leading chief petty officer at PERS-409, it is just another day at work. He does not sweat it because he has been preparing for this PFA - and every other PFA - for his entire 26-year naval career.

With arms that could rival professional wrestler Hulk Hogan's famous "24-inch pythons" and a chest approximately the circumference of a giant sequoia, Burks does not worry about this time of year.

"I embrace PFA season," said Burks. "I think it is the time of the year where Sailors, especially those in leadership roles, can get out and show the junior Sailors the right way to perform and set that bar high."

Although the PFA is the measure of physical fitness used in the Navy, it is not the drive for Burks to stay in health. Always a senior chief, Burks attributes one of his motivating factors to the Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert's tenants of "warfighting first."

"As Sailors, our country demands a lot of us and Sailors have to be fit to keep up with these demands," he said. "We need to be physically ready, mentally ready and always prepared to serve this country in any capacity and that is a major motivator for me."

However, Burks' dedication does not stop when he steps outside of Joe Dugger Fitness and Wellness Center on base.

"Sailors come first for him," said Cmdr. Gary Martin, PERS-409 branch head, who has worked with Burks for a year and a half. "Sailors here look up to him and are always asking for advice about life in the gym and life in the Navy."

As they say though, all good things must come to an end. With a career longer than most junior Sailors have been alive, Burks is scheduled to retire after nearly 26-years of faithful service to the United States Navy.

The self-described family man, with five children, will continue the healthy lifestyle and keep his regiment of working out after the Navy.

"Right now I am doing a 21 day challenge with my wife," said Burks. "I might have to put in double or triple work some days, but I will do what I have to do to motivate her and promote a healthy lifestyle.

"Yeah I'm a senior chief petty officer but I leave that at work and when I get home I become a father, husband and brother and exercising with my family is about having fun and getting something out of it."

When Burks is finally piped ashore for the final time, he will leave a legacy of impressive fitness, but more importantly, outstanding leadership and mentorship.

"He is an all-around good leader and he is a great example for the rest of us to look up to," said Martin. "We are definitely going to miss him around here."

Although Burks is physically strong, a precise number for his maximum strength is hard to gauge.

Until a recent injury, a ten-mile run was no problem. As far as bench press goes, he is not a fan of a one-rep max but would have no problem putting up the 120-pound dumbbells on dumbbell bench a few times. Legs are a different story for him though.

"Well, I used to play football so I had to squat a lot but my legs got so big I legitimately could not find jeans to fit over my thighs so I had to cut that out of my routine," he laughed.

He does not take any supplements or protein and his advice on how to effectively exercise and meet your goals is simple, "know your body and all of your muscles," as well as drinking plenty of water and getting plenty of rest.

"By being focused, working out and staying in shape, the Navy got a better leader," he said. "I have instilled these principles in my Sailors and they will lead their Sailors in the same way and I want that to be my legacy."

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