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Alpha Warriors compete at Kirtland Air Force Base

Bernard Douglas works his way through the cannonball alley during the Alpha Warrior obstacle competition. Douglas, with the Army 21st Ordnance Company, was the first competitor on Wednesday. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Resilient. If there’s one word to describe U.S. military personnel, it is this.

And nearly 50 area service members showcased their resilience and strength during the Alpha Warrior obstacle race competition at Kirtland Air Force Base on Wednesday.

Alpha Warrior produces NBC’s summer television series “American Ninja Warrior,” during which competitors overcome massive obstacle courses as quickly as possible. The courses feature a series of tests, many with creative names such as cliffhanger, battering ram, cannonball alley, broken bars and the devil’s step.

The tour brought in pros to first demonstrate how to navigate the course. Among those were Kacy Cantanzaro, the first woman to qualify for the “American Ninja Warrior” finals, and Rebekah Bonilla.

The first local competitor up was Bernard Douglas of the Army’s 21st Ordnance Company.

Douglas, a powerlifter, said he didn’t know what to expect.

Tawnee Leonardo competes on the broken bars section of the Alpha Warrior obstacle competition. Leonardo, who has been training for almost a year, traveled from El Paso with her husband, Braden, and was the only female competitor to finish the course. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

“It was terrifying to go after the pros,” he said with a laugh. “I’d never tried anything like this and it’s tough. I didn’t realize how much upper body and hand strength you have to have. My fingers were giving out during some of it. But I finished and I’m proud of myself.”

Tawnee Leonardo traveled from El Paso with her husband, Braden, to compete.

She patiently waited and was the only woman to finish the obstacle course.

“I’ve been hooked on ‘American Ninja Warrior’ since the first season,” she said. “I’ve been training for almost a year. There are no ninja gyms in El Paso, so my husband and I took a day off to come here. We also just built some training gear at our house.”

James Anderson, programs directorate of the HQ Air Force Services Activity, said part of the tour is made up of the comprehensive airmen fitness program.

“We bring in these athletes from the show to be coaches,” he said. “They focus on mental, physical, social and spiritual aspects with the airmen.”

The stop at Kirtland is the eighth for the tour, which will travel to 41 different bases before it ends. The tour will also make stops in Japan, Korea, Italy and the United Kingdom.

Anderson said the winners from Wednesday’s competition will go to one of 15 regional competitions.

He said the Alpha Warrior obstacle race competition is in its first year and it has been on the road for about a month.

“What’s surprised me is the enthusiasm from all the competitors,” he said. “Each person has to look within themselves to find the strength to finish the obstacle course. It’s amazing to watch them persevere.”

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