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Iron Cowboy shares story of resiliency

Photo of an F-16 pilot with passenger

U.S. Air Force Maj. Garret Schmitz, F-16 Viper Demonstration Team pilot and commander, left, and James Lawrence, Ironman triathlete and motivational speaker, make hand signals at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, Jan. 27, 2021. Lawrence flew in the back seat of an F-16 Viper to better understand the mission of the 20th Fighter Wing and see the result of Airmen working together. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Benjamin Ingold)

Photo of F-16 maintainers launching F-16

Airmen assigned to the F-16 Viper Demonstration Team launch an F-16 Viper for a familiarization ride at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, Jan. 27, 2021. James Lawrence, Ironman triathlete and motivational speaker, experienced basic fighter maneuvers, parts of the Viper Demonstration aerial performance routine and the force of nine times his bodyweight or nine G’s. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Benjamin Ingold)

Photo of Air Force pilot giving brief

U.S. Air Force Capt. Dustin Rivich, 55th Fighter Squadron pilot, left, briefs F-16 Viper egress procedures to James Lawrence, Ironman triathlete and motivational speaker, at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, Jan. 27, 2021. Lawrence flew a familiarization flight with Maj. Garret Schmitz, F-16 Viper Demonstration Team pilot and commander, after giving a speech to 20th Fighter Wing Airmen. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Benjamin Ingold)

Photo of motivational speaker

James Lawrence, Ironman triathlete and motivational speaker, speaks to 20th Fighter Wing Airmen at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, Jan. 27, 2021. Lawrence shared his story of resiliency and overcoming extreme physical and mental challenges to inspire Airmen to achieve more. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Benjamin Ingold)

Photo of person in training gear.

James Lawrence, Ironman triathlete and motivational speaker, poses for a photo in 20th Operational Support Squadron training gear at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, Jan. 26, 2021. Lawrence flew a familiarization flight with Maj. Garret Schmitz, F-16 Viper Demonstration Team pilot and commander, after speaking to 20th Fighter Wing Airmen. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Benjamin Ingold)

Photo of pilot and man listening to briefing.

U.S. Air Force Maj. Garret Schmitz, F-16 Viper Demonstration Team pilot and commander, right, and James Lawrence, Ironman triathlete and motivational speaker, listen to an emergency parachute deployment briefing at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, Jan. 26, 2021. Lawrence flew in the back seat on an F-16 Viper to better understand the mission of the 20th Fighter Wing and see the result of Airmen working together. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Benjamin Ingold)

SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. --

James “Iron Cowboy” Lawrence shared his story of grit, resilience and how he found the will to keep going in the face of challenges to Team Shaw Airmen, Jan. 27.

Lawrence accomplished the physical feat of completing 50 Ironman triathlons in 50 days across all 50 of the United States. Lawrence overcame lack of sleep, injury and self-doubt to prove to himself he can accomplish feats thought to be impossible.

“James personifies the values of Air Force resiliency,” said Maj. Garret Schmitz, F-16 Viper Demonstration Team pilot and commander. “We face plenty of adversity in our personal and professional lives as military members. I think his message resonates with all Airmen at Shaw.”

Lawrence began pushing himself to his limits when he lost his home and business in the 2008 economic recession. He used physical training to help him overcome the stress of providing for his family and saw the opportunity to share his experience with the world.

He faced defeat when he attempted to be one of the first people to scale Mount Kilimanjaro on a bicycle. On a particularly difficult day, he came across two U.S. veterans descending the mountain after reaching the summit. Lawrence listened to their stories about deployments and combat experience and changed his perspective.

“We had a different attitude the next day when we took off,” said Lawrence. “We were the first group of people to make it to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro on our bikes. I thought about that group of veterans on the summit and it filled me with gratitude.”

As part of his Viper Demo immersion, Lawrence attended egress and emergency parachute deployment training, toured an F-16 Fighter Squadron and flew in the back seat of an F-16 Viper to experience the mission of the wing first-hand.

Schmitz and his team showed Lawrence F-16 basic fighter maneuvers, parts of the Viper Demonstration aerial performance routine and pulled nine times his bodyweight, or nine Gs.

Lawrence said he hopes his story of defeating the physical and mental challenges he faced will resonate with people and inspire them to be grateful for what they have and help them overcome the obstacles in their personal and professional lives.

“It was an honor to speak to the Airmen on Shaw Air Force Base,” said Lawrence. “It was mind-blowing to see what everyone on the base can do and what they can accomplish together.”