Five Questions with Keenan Fowlkes

Member of the Alabama Army National Guard, Full-Time Teacher, and Co-Owner of Viking Fitness

Q&A by Anna Lee Vaughn | Images by Ryan McGill

WL: Tell us about your early life and education.

KF: I grew up in Savannah, Tennessee, and was so fortunate to have amazing parents and grandparents. I was the first in my family to attend college, and I feel this accomplishment began when I was a student. My teachers believed in me and maintained high expectations for me. 

In 2000, I began attending the University of North Alabama and received a Master’s degree in Elementary Education. I was very involved on campus and loved being a part of my sorority, Phi Mu.  

WL: How did you get involved with the Army? 

KF: I’m proud to have dedicated my life to teaching, but I have always felt I could do more. At 37 years old, I asked a recruiter if I could join the Army National Guard, even though I was over the cut-off age of 35. SFC Preston and Amber Griffin, recruiters in Cullman and the Jasper RSP Unit, were able to get me enlisted. At the age of 38 in Montgomery, Alabama, I raised my right hand and my life changed forever.

Serving in the Alabama Army National Guard, Bravo 1/117th Field Artillery Unit in Montgomery is not another “job”; it is a calling. I’m the only female in the FDC and have gained a bunch of brothers I never wanted! Ha! Enlisting was one of the best decisions I ever made. 

WL: How did you realize teaching was your calling, and what do you love most about it?

KF: I was one of those little girls that played “school.” I always loved school, and I worked hard to get good grades. I truly believe that teaching is one of the most important and honorable occupations. It demands dedication, love, and patience. Our precious students, who walk into our classrooms each day, are the future. A teacher has the opportunity to positively impact students’ lives, and this is a huge privilege that should not be taken lightly. I believe that all students can and want to learn, and it is my responsibility to challenge my students to grow as learners. Over the past 20 years, I have dedicated a vast amount of time in my classroom at West Elementary School in Cullman, Alabama to teaching young children that “Freedom is not Free.” Service is the gift I can give others; it gives my life meaning.

WL: How did you get started with Viking Fitness?

KF: Viking Fitness, formally known as CrossFit 205 in Jasper, came to me out of the blue. Coach Chet Graves and I own CrossFit 256 in Cullman, AL, and we were contacted by Principal Amber Freeman. She asked if we wanted to purchase another gym that was about to close. I was in Fort Lee, VA, attending SLICC, a very intense Army School, when I got the call. I pretty much said, “Let’s do this, FULL SEND.”  So, within a day we had bought another gym in the awesome town of Jasper, the place of my first drilling station with the Army! I’ll never forget my Chief saying, “Are you crazy, Fowlkes? You know you have to sleep, right?”

My role at Viking is very minimal thanks to our amazing coaches. They teach all the classes and are there for the people in Jasper that need more than a gym membership. I personally offer nutrition guidance to all members at Viking Fitness and CrossFit 256. I love sitting down with members and listening to their goals, and I truly believe that both our gyms have everything a person needs to reach their fullest potential. All I ask for people to bring is motivation!

WL: Outside of your many business ventures, what are your hobbies?

KF: CrossFit has been my hobby for the past 11 years, and fitness has been my hobby for 25 years. I have a 12-year-old son, Brody, and we are hoping to get into some MMA training together. We also love to travel and go kayaking. Right now, I’m trying to decide if I commission to a Field Artillery Officer or get my doctorate next. You never know with me! WL

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