FORT BARFOOT, Va. –
If you ask Staff Sgt. Catherine So how to accomplish a goal, she’ll tell you to start small. So, an 88M Motor Transport Operator by military occupational specialty, is now part of the Virginia National Guard’s Holistic Health and Fitness, or H2F, team. Big fitness goals, she said, are best tackled when they’re bite-sized.
“Have short term goals for something you can reach along the way first, because it feels good to accomplish something, and then you can just keep accomplishing things,” So said, explaining that the momentum of small successes can make a daunting goal more palatable. “Having small goals helps you get to the big goal.”
So’s own fitness goals and interests have evolved over time. In high school and college, she played tennis. Then, when she entered the workforce in earnest and found herself with some disposable income, she started lifting weights and doing CrossFit.
“I love lifting weights, specifically the power clean because it’s such a fun lift,” So said. “It’s not the most complex lift, it’s really easy to learn, but I love it, probably because I lift a good amount on a good day.”
When the U.S. Army shifted toward a more holistic and comprehensive approach to fitness, So was excited. She was working as an athletic trainer and a teacher on the civilian side and was spending most of her time around sports and athletes. As H2F rolled out, So learned about the Virginia National Guard’s endurance team, tried out for that and then, within a few years, she became part of the full-time H2F team.
As an American-born Chinese woman, So said she’s glad for the opportunity to represent women and people of color in the fitness space.
“I think it’s important to show other cultures,” So said. “There’s not really a lot of Asians in the Virginia National Guard, at least I haven’t seen many, but that population is growing, and we’re going toward more inclusion, more diversity, and I think it’s nice to show people that there is that diversity.”
Originally from New York City, So and her family moved to Rustburg, Virginia, right around the time she started high school. Far removed from the multiculturalism of Manhattan, So and her identical twin sister were unique in their new environment.
“My sister and I were the only two Asians in the entire school, probably the Rustburg school system, until our senior year, when there was a foreign exchange student,” she said. “It was a culture shock to both of us.”
It was during high school that So’s sister saw a flyer for the National Guard advertising college tuition assistance, back in 2011. Military service wasn’t something they were familiar with as no one else in their family had served, but it seemed like a good opportunity for them and so, the two enlisted at the same time, both with the assistance of their mother, who signed their enlistments forms for them as they were both still 17 and seniors in high school.
“Then, we both shipped off to the same basic training, but we were in different platoons, but the same company,” So said. Despite the closeness, So said didn’t see her sister much, but took comfort in knowing they were experiencing the same challenges together, if apart. Once they returned home, the two were assigned to the same unit until promotions split them apart. Today, So’s sister serves in the Utah Army National Guard, using the Chinese language skills they both gleaned growing up in a dual-lingual home.
As she looks ahead, So is considering advancing her a career as an officer and has plans to attend Officer Candidate School, but, for her physical goal, she wants to push herself toward excellence on the Army Combat Fitness Test, or ACFT.
“If I could get to 600, that would be great,” So said of the ACFT, explaining that she’s working toward that goal, one small step at a time.