HUNTER ARMY AIRFIELD, Ga. - Spouses, Soldiers and friends cheered wildly for the three Tominac Fitness Center female athletes as they stepped onto the Savannah Civic Center stage at the Southern Isles bodybuilding championship competition, June 17.

"We didn't take all the trophies, but we definitely had the strongest support," said Sudan Salaam, a bodybuilder and personal trainer at Tominac, who took second place in the "over 40 masters' division" and third in the women's heavyweight competition. The three competitors are proud of achieving their fitness level "with what God gave them," and without steroids or other performance enhancers.

Tiffany Mitchell, a 260th Quartermaster Battalion spouse and amateur bodybuilder, placed fourth in the heavyweight women's competition and has reason to be proud of her performance in her first bodybuilding competition.

"She's a natural," said Salaam, who has encouraged Mitchell over the last three years of bodybuilding at Tominac. Mitchell, a former Soldier and paralegal with a three-year-old son, spends about two hours each day in the gym working with weights and equipment.

"Competing on stage was fun but I was really nervous," said Mitchell. "I'd do it again even if I hadn't placed."

She said the Tominac trainers have inspired her in her quest for fitness but is their encouragement and friendship that make it fun.

The second Tominac trainer, and former gymnast, Ana Chudkosky, competed in the "shape and overall fitness" competition with nine other contestants, the largest group of competitors in any of the day's events. As a first-time competitor, she didn't win, but said she enjoyed the new experience and the personal challenge of training and competing. On her birthday each year, Chudkosky pledges to do something new and exciting to expand her personal achievements and this event definitely fit the bill.

"For my 29th birthday my goal was to try the show - and I did it," she said. "I had so much fun backstage with Sudan and Tiffany. It's a shared experience that we'll never forget."

Salaam encourages all women to have fun and to strive for some level of strength and fitness. She waited until age 36 before power training and was surprised that she could lift so much weight.

"I was a born athlete, but nobody ever encouraged me," she said, explaining that she was from a busy Family that consisted of 11 brothers and sisters.

"I want to inspire people," she said. "It goes beyond the gym. People need motivation in their lives."

"It's never too late to start either," added Chudkosky. "Many who come to us at Tominac are desperate for a change. That's what fun about this job - we help everyone - from Special Forces to special needs. It's the best job in the world."