You may know the Honorable Rob Wilkins as a member of the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness, and Nutrition or as the Senior Military Editor for Muscle & Fitness. Aside from those positions, Wilkins is also a proud father, husband, and 26-year veteran of the United States Air Force. While others may separate service to country and personal fitness, Wilkins has found the two to intertwine throughout his life.
Wilkins’ family has been involved in service to America since the very beginning. His sixth-great grandfather was involved in the American Revolution in the 1770’s. That connection, along with a personal desire to serve his country led the New Jersey native to join himself. It’s a family tradition in his eyes.
“I have a few cousins that are currently serving, so going all the way back to the Revolutionary War to current times, someone on my mom’s or dad’s side of the family have served in the military. We consider it an honor to be a part of those that protect our freedoms.”
Wilkins’ personal journey in the military started when he joined the United States Air Force. Aside from following in the footsteps of his ancestors, he found it to be a great way to seek adventure, travel the world, and meet a lot of people.
“I got to see what the world looked like outside of New Jersey. I chose the Air Force because I had an uncle who served, and we spoke about it,” he recalled. “So, I joined in 1982, and I went to Lackland Boot Camp in January of 1983.”
During his military career, Wilkins go to see and work in 43 different countries, including Germany, England, and Italy, among others. He also spent time in Florida, and served the final eight years of his career working in the Pentagon.
While he was in West Germany (during the Cold War), Wilkins took up weight training and wanted to learn as much as he could about how to get in better shape. He found that it not only helped him prepare for future deployments, it helped increase his self-confidence. His research led him to discovering the men who could be called the fathers of the bodybuilding industry, Joe and Ben Weider. Wilkins opted to send them Christmas cards one year to express his thanks for their passion and efforts.
“I had thought nothing of it. I just enjoyed the magazines.”
Both Joe and Ben wrote him back. Ben Weider had served in the military himself for his home country of Canada. So, he felt a connection to the young American. Weider expressed his own gratitude along with hopes that they could work together in the future once he returned to American soil. Once Wilkins was stationed at Patrick Air Force Base, he followed up by writing Ben another letter.
“I held him to that,” he said with a laugh. “At first, I thought it was just kind words to say, but he meant it.”
In 1990, Ben Weider would appoint Wilkins as the IFBB Liaison to the military, a position he was very proud to hold, and allowed him to remain connected to Weider for the next several years. Both Weiders would offer donations to the military such as supplements or clothing, tickets to shows, and even money in some cases. Wilkins was the coordinator of those contributions.
“I would find out what the need was, pass that information on to Ben, and we would make it happen. I would then help arrange a meeting if it was possible so they could thank him for his goodness. At his heart, Ben was a military man.”
Ben Weider passed away in 2008, as did Joe in 2013, but Wilkins remains steadfast to fulfilling their joint mission to promote fitness both in and out of the military community. Another opportunity to serve came when he was nominated to serve on the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness, and Nutrition. Wilkins was confirmed to serve under President Donald Trump for a two-year term, and he was asked to serve for another term by President Joe Biden. There aren’t many Americans that have served under two Presidential administrations, and even fewer have served under those of different political parties. This is a tribute to Wilkins’ commitment to country.
“There are a few things that bring immense joy. One for me is family, second is my military service, and then there’s the opportunity to serve my country again in such an important role as a member of the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness, and Nutrition,” he said proudly. “There are people who might not agree on many things, but they can agree on going to the gym or working out.”
Wilkins has taken his commitment to his passions to a new level, specifically for the month of November. He has founded National Military Fitness and Wellness Month, a month to increase awareness on the importance of physical activity, stress management, and proper nutrition within the military community. Muscle & Fitness President Dan Solomon and Director of Media Development Frank Sepe are joining Wilkins on this cause. Like Solomon and Sepe, Wilkins’ greatest attribute may be his ability to bring people together for a common cause such as fitness. His crusade has seen him be joined by everyone at M&F, which he expressed gratitude for.
“I want to take the time to everyone at Muscle & Fitness for all they do to help promote fitness in the military community, including support with the Fit to Serve column, which is the world’s largest military, law enforcement, and civil service column that promotes the importance of fitness.”
Under Wilkins’ guidance, he hopes to help promote a healthy and active lifestyle to those heroes who’ve protected our freedom, because they are needed and wanted more than ever both in their communities and by their families.
“With an increasing number of military personnel and family members facing medical challenges caused by physical inactivity and poor diets. National Military Fitness and Wellness Month is the ideal time to make fitness a priority,” commented Wilkins.
Aside from that purpose, Wilkins feels this could be another way to show his appreciation for all those that have served in the Armed Forces as he had for over a quarter-century.
“Freedom is not free. The men and women that protect our country are amazing people that do a lot without a lot of fanfare. They do it because they want to, not for pats on the back. That would actually be the true highlight of my career, meeting such amazing Americans from all different backgrounds, that make up the fabric of America.”