You may know the Honorable Rob Wilkins as a member of the President's Council on Sports, Fitness, and Nutrition or as Senior Military Editor for Muscle & Fitness. Aside from these positions, Wilkins is also a proud father, husband, and 26-year United States Air Force veteran. While others may separate country service and personal fitness, Wilkins has found the two to be intertwined throughout his life.
The Wilkins family has been involved in the service to America from the beginning. His sixth great-grandfather was involved in the American Revolution in the 1770s. This connection, along with a personal desire to serve his country, led the New Jersey native to join him. In his eyes, it's a family tradition.
Courtesy of Rob Wilkins
"I have a couple of cousins who are currently serving, so someone on either my mother's or my father's side of the family has served in the military since the Revolutionary War through to the present day. We consider it an honor to be among those who protect our freedoms.”
Wilkins' personal military journey began when he enlisted in the United States Air Force. Aside from following in the footsteps of his ancestors, he found it a great way to seek adventure, travel the world and meet lots of people.
"I got to see what the world was like outside of New Jersey. I chose the Air Force because I had an uncle who served and we talked about it,” he recalls. "So I joined in 1982 and went to Lackland Boot Camp in January 1983."
During his military career, Wilkins visited and worked in 43 different countries, including Germany, England and Italy. He also spent time in Florida and served the last eight years of his Pentagon career.
While living in West Germany (during the Cold War), Wilkins took up weight training and wanted to learn as much as possible about getting in better shape. He found that not only did it help him prepare for future assignments, it also boosted his confidence. His research led him to the discovery of the men who could be considered the fathers of the bodybuilding industry, Joe and Ben Weider. Wilkins chose to send them Christmas cards for a year to express his gratitude for their passion and effort.
"I hadn't thought anything of it. I just enjoyed the magazines.”
Courtesy of Rob Wilkins
Both Joe and Ben texted him back. Ben Weider himself had served in the military for his native Canada. This is how he felt connected to the young American. Weider expressed his own gratitude and hoped they could work together in the future once he returned to American soil. After Wilkins was stationed at Patrick Air Force Base, he wrote Ben another letter.
"I held him to that," he said, laughing. "At first I thought it was just nice words, but he meant business."
In 1990, Ben Weider appointed Wilkins as IFBB military liaison, a position of which he was very proud, and allowed him to remain associated with Weider for years to come. Both Weiders offered donations to the military, such as food supplements or clothing, tickets to shows, and in some cases even money. Wilkins was the coordinator of these contributions.
"I would find out what the need was, get that information to Ben and we would make it happen. I would then help arrange a meeting if possible so they could thank him for his kindness. Ben was a military man at heart.”
Courtesy of Rob Wilkins
Ben Weider died in 2008, as did Joe in 2013, but Wilkins remains steadfast in fulfilling their shared mission of promoting fitness both inside and outside the military community. Another opportunity for service came when he was nominated to serve on the Presidential Council on Sports, Fitness and Nutrition. Wilkins was confirmed to serve a two-year term under President Donald Trump and was asked by President Joe Biden to serve for an additional term. There are not many Americans who have served under two presidential administrations, and fewer still have served under those of different political parties. This is a tribute to Wilkins' commitment to the country.
“There are a few things that bring great joy. One for me is family, the 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 disagree on a lot of 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 vember. He founded National Military Fitness and Wellness Month, a month to raise awareness of the importance of physical activity, stress management and proper nutrition within the military community. Dan Solomon, President of Muscle & Fitness, and Frank Sepe, Director of Media Development, are supporting Wilkins on this matter. Like Solomon and Sepe, perhaps Wilkins' greatest attribute is his ability to bring people together around a common cause like fitness. He was joined on his crusade by everyone at M&F, for which he was grateful.
“I want to give everyone at Muscle & Fitness time to do everything they do to promote fitness in the military community, including supporting the Fit to Serve column, the world's largest military, law enforcement and public service column promoting the importance of Fitness."
Under Wilkins' direction, he hopes to instill healthy and active lifestyles in the heroes who defended our liberty, because they are needed and wanted more than ever in their communities and families alike.
“As more military members and family members face medical problems caused by physical inactivity and poor diet. National Military Fitness and Wellness Month is the perfect time to make fitness a priority,” commented Wilkins.
Aside from that purpose, Wilkins believes this could be another way to show his appreciation for all those who have served in the armed forces, as he has for over a quarter of a century.
"Freedom is not free. The men and women who protect our country are amazing people who do a lot without fanfare. They do it because they want to, not for pats on the back. That would actually be the real highlight of my career, like that to meet amazing Americans from all backgrounds who make up the fabric of America.”
Follow Rob on Instagram @rob.wilkins.359 and on LinkedIn by searching for "rob wilkins". To learn more about National Military Fitness and Wellness Month, visit the Muscle & Fitness YouTube channel.