445th ASTS Airman tackles obesity to join Air Force

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Rachel Ingram
  • 445th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Despite several tragedies and unplanned twists in life, one Citizen Airman overcame obesity and now donates his time and knowledge to help hundreds of his Wingmen.


“I wanted to be a pilot,” says Senior Airman Christian Terrill, medical technician with the 445th Aeromedical Staging Squadron.

This is where his story begins.

“I had this idea in my head that I could fly into danger zones, find people who needed help, and pull them to safety,” he explains. “It sounds really corny, but I’ve just always wanted a job where I could help people.”

Throughout high school, Terrill planned on joining the military upon graduation.

“There wasn’t a backup plan. I just always thought it was what I was going to do,” he recalls.

He didn’t realize that the heart murmur he was born with was considered a disqualifying condition.

“I was shocked when I received notification I was turned down and couldn’t enlist,” says Terrill. “The murmur had never affected me once in life.”

This bleak discovery was just the tip of the iceberg, according to Terrill.

“After that, I endured the deaths of several people in my life within a short period of time, I went through a break-up with a fiancée, and then my buddy, an Army sergeant, was killed in Iraq.”

At 5 feet 7 inches tall, Terrill weighed in at 260 pounds, with a body mass index more than 15 points above the healthy range.

“I was angry,” he says. “I already held resentment toward the military for turning me away, and now my friend was dead because of the Army. I became angrier that now a wife and two small children were left without their husband and father.”

Hundreds of people attended the funeral, Terrill says. The man’s widow spoke of her husband’s commitment to a cause, and his military supervisor reminded the attendees that freedom isn’t free.

“I looked at everything my friend had achieved and it gave me an amazing sense of pride,” Terrill says. “His life meant so much, and here I was, unable to just stop myself from eating McDonald’s.”

This was a turning point, and Terrill left the funeral motivated.

“At first, I tried out fad diets,” he mentions. “Of course, none of them worked. I decided to research the scientific aspects of weight loss: how fats, carbs, and proteins break down within the body.”

He lost 50 pounds and then enrolled in courses through the International Sports Sciences Association, eventually earning his certified personal trainer and wellness coach certifications.

“One day, after I’d lost a lot of the weight, I was spending time with my family and my dad began having a seizure,” he says.

His ISSA certifications included formal training in CPR and basic first aid, so others present at the time looked to Terrill to react.

“But I didn’t know what to do,” he says. “I sat there dumbfounded, and I felt completely powerless. I never wanted to experience that feeling again.”

While talking to a personal training client shortly after that incident, Terrill brought up his desire to join the military, and the client mentioned that she’d heard that the Air Force Reserve was accepting waivers for some medical conditions now. At this point, he’d lost a total of 120 pounds within about two years.

“I tried to enlist again, but was turned down a second time,” he says. “I worked with a recruiter to create a waiver for my heart murmur, and on my third attempt, I was finally able to enlist.”

Given his interest in helping others, and the experience with his father, Terrill asked specifically for a medical or emergency response position at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. He found a home at the 445th ASTS, and his younger brother, Senior Airman Gabriel Terrill, decided to join the 445th Operations Support Squadron.

“After several years of trying to join the active-duty Air Force, and then the reserve, I thought, ‘this is a chance for me to start fresh.’”

At age 27, Terrill attended basic military training at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas.

During BMT, technical school, and even in-processing with the 445th Airlift Wing, Terrill stepped forward as a leader in fitness.

In 2014, he began offering formal, comprehensive fitness education courses during unit training assemblies.

“Lately, about 20-30 people attend the class each month,” he reports. “We schedule it at the end of the duty day, so it actually causes us to have to stay at work about 30 minutes later than normal, but nobody seems to mind.”

The course is mandatory for anyone in the ASTS who fails a physical fitness test, but the vast majority of the class attendees come by choice. Last month, for example, for each one individual required to attend due to a failure, were eight individuals who chose to attend because they were interested in the course material.

“We’re looking at expanding,” says Terrill, a full-time registered nursing student. “Anyone is welcome to attend, and I would really like to make the program more inclusive of the whole wing.”


Around his unit, Terrill is known for his fitness expertise.

“I’ve instructed about half of our approximately 150-member squadron,” he says. “I’ve also conducted personal, one-on-one consultations with about 20 squadron members.”

Terrill lives in Middletown, Ohio with his wife, who is expecting their third child in June. When he isn’t driving a bus for Lebanon City Schools or working with personal training clients, he happily meets with local-area Wingmen who need extra support with PT.

“I watch how people move, identify their weaknesses, and then we work together to target those weaknesses,” he explains. “Everything I do for my squadron is totally voluntary, even when I’m meeting local unit members during the week and on off weekends.”

His dedication is glaringly evident.

“One Airman I worked with made a really big impression on me,” Terrill says. “He’d failed his test, so in the two months leading up to his retest, we met three days per week for two hour sessions. I easily spent more than 70 hours working with this guy.”


Terrill says he was inspired my how hard the Airman worked to improve his scores.

“Ultimately, he was able to shave four minutes off his run time, and increase his pushups and sit ups by 40 and 25, respectively.”


He’s been able to help people in more than just fitness, though.

“As a military-trained medic, I’ve been able to use my training to help members of the general public on three separate occasions, like when I was on vacation last summer and encountered a man at an interstate rest stop having a stroke,” he says. 


This March, Terrill was exiting a movie theater as his daughter danced up the aisle after watching Beauty and the Beast, when a little girl ahead of them abruptly collapsed and began seizing. He appropriately responded immediately, and the girl made a full recovery.

“In my nursing courses at school, I see a lot of my classmates hesitating and becoming overwhelmed in stressful situations,” he says. “I don’t have to second-guess myself because of all the military training I’ve received. I have the ability to block out all the other noise and just focus on the mission.”

For Terrill, it’s a constant growing process.

“Each UTA, there is something new or fascinating to learn about my career field,” he says. “How many civilians can say that about their jobs?  As long as I stay open-minded and listen, I have limitless opportunities to learn.”