MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. -- After four grueling months of preparing for the Amateur Athletic Union National Powerlifting Championship, the Marines of the Combat Center’s Drug Demand Reduction Program Drug- and Alcohol-Free Powerlifting Team displayed distinction when they placed second at the competition. Moreover, a larger award was achieved when a Marine broke the A.A.U. Powerlifting world record in the dead lift.Lance Cpl. Phillip K. Smith, motor transportation driver, Lima Battery, 3rd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, deadlifted 551 pounds, shattering the previous record by 10 pounds, at the A.A.U. National Powerlifting Championship in Vista, Calif., June 18. The 19-year-old Marine started powerlifting in junior high school and was on the Natchez High School’s, Natchez, Miss., powerlifting team. Weighing in at 100 pounds as a freshman in high school, Smith said he was tired of his shape.“I was a small kid when I was growing up and I was tired of it,” said Smith. Smith’s art teacher, Joseph Johnson, who also coached the school’s powerlifting team and football team, convinced him that he should try getting involved in powerlifting.The aspiring words of Smith’s high school coach led Smith to become a prominent powerlifter in his area as well as a record breaker in his age and weight class.The Natchez, Miss., native enjoys hunting, fishing, horseback riding and the usual “country boy” activities, but aside from activities he participates in at home, or from playing video games in his barracks room, Smith enjoys spending his free time in the weight room, working out for his future in powerlifting. Smith arrived at the Combat Center in November 2004. Upon settling in, he picked up his weight training consisting of squats, bench presses and deadlifts. The day he heard of the Combat Center’s powerlifting team was the day he met a member of the team, Cpl. Nicholas C. Rivera, radio technician, Marine Corps Communication-Electronics School.“I noticed the technique [Rivera] was using needed some adjustment,” said Smith. “I went over to help him out. He then told me he was training for the powerlifting team and that I might beinterested.”Aspiring powerlifter Lance Cpl. Evan M. Eagan, a combat correspondent with Headquarters Battalion, Public Affairs Office, and retired Marine, David Roman, the Combat Center drug demand reduction coordinator created the powerlifting team in February.Smith approached Roman, a powerlifting champion, during a training session at the East Gym to see if the team needed another member. Focused on the upcoming competition, Roman requested that Smith train even though he would not be able to compete in the next event because it was coming up too soon, said Roman. “I continued my training in the East Gym every day during the team’s training sessions,” said Smith. “A couple days later, [Roman] came to me and said, ‘We got to have you on the team.’ I guess he was impressed.”From then on, Smith spent his lunch break vigorously training in the East Gym for two hours, Monday through Friday, to prepare for June’s national competition. Although, the ambiance in the weight room isn’t any different from that of any other weight room he’s trained in, Smith’s workouts have been altered. Throughout the course of a month, the powerlifting team trains with repetitions of various workouts. Toward the end of the month, the training intensifies as the weight lifted is maxed out, said Smith. The five team members push each other to their limit, he added. “It’s a young team,” said Smith. “We just started this year so there is a lot of room for progress. We get along really well, and we all play our own part for the team. We have an understanding that if we pull our own weight, we should be good.”The team’s training calls for nothing but maximum effort from each member, said Roman. It’s all-out training for powerlifting and powerlifting only. Roman has been powerlifting for more than two decades. He started after he embarked on his journey with sobriety. “He’s a real good coach,” said Smith. “I see him like a father figure. He never criticizes when training us or correcting us. He spends a good amount of time with each individual on the team. When he talks to us, it’s never like a coach talking; it’s like he’s just one of the guys handing us advice.”Four months of dripping sweat, grinding teeth, grunting and sounds of steel clashing passed by, and the team invaded the A.A.U. National Powerlifting Championship at the Rancho Buena Vista Performing Arts Center in Buena Vista, Calif., to show the country how much weight they can put up.To Smith, it was just another day. The solid, 5-foot-8-inch powerlifter was in his “own little world” the morning of the competition. Smith’s adrenaline streamed through his body as rap group Lil’ Jon and the East Side Boyz’ “Crunk Juice” album was blasting in his ear from his portable compact disc player.“The only thing I could think about was there is no way I’m going to place second or third,” said Smith. “It’s very seldom that I get anything but first place. Anything other than first place was definitely not an option for me. I do what I have to do.”What Smith had to do was hoist the weight on the bar.“There’s no point of putting weight on the bar if you can’t lift it,” said Smith.After his second attempt in the dead lifts, the sturdy, 175-pound Marine picked up 551 pounds, breaking the A.A.U. Powerlifting world record by 10 pounds in dead lifts for his weight class. “The competition was real nice,” said Smith, modestly. “It was better than I expected. I wasn’t sure if I could beat everyone there but I had to get it off; it was mandatory for myself because if it wasn’t [first place], I didn’t want it.”Smith went home with a first-place trophy from the competition and looks forward to achieving more powerlifting trophies. “I want to break every record I can,” said Smith.Lance Cpl. Eamarion E. Netter, motor transportation driver, Lima Battery, knew Smith for 12 years. The two grew up together in Mississippi.“[Smith] changed a lot since I could remember,” said Netter. “He went from small to big,” he expressed.Netter continued to describe Smith as a great leader, dedicated to whatever he does and confident. Working in motor transportation, Smith finds the weight training to be useful in his field.“I also don’t know anyone here that could pick up a 500-pound tire from a 7-ton truck and move it around,” said Netter. “I’m just waiting for him to break his own record by lifting 630 pounds. I know he can do it.”Smith and Netter train in the East Gym together on their spare time. Netter picks up tips from Smith. Smith breaks records, so he knows what he’s doing, said Netter.“I encourage the Marines, Sailors and anyone on base to practice powerlifting,” said Smith. “I also encourage [teenagers] to try it out. There are kids that are able to lift amounts of weight they never would think they could. This is great for their confidence. This sport is not broadcasted like it should be, and that is why no one really knows about it.”The team will be participating in A.A.U. World Powerlifting Championship, Dec. 3 at the Riverfront Hotel in Laughlin, Nev. Smith will not participate because of an upcoming deployment, but he said he wishes the best of luck to the team.