For a few seconds, the jet wouldn't budge.
Strapped in a yellow harness, Ensign Rita Johnson grasped a rope and inched forward, hoping the 34,000-pound F/A-18C Hornet she was tethered to would move with her. Then suddenly, the Navy aircraft began to crawl, and Johnson's small steps picked up speed.
In less than 27 seconds, she had moved the Hornet about 75 feet. She dropped the rope and smiled. It hadn't been as tough as she had imagined.
About 50 people showed up at Oceana Naval Air Station on Saturday to try to pull the aircraft as an event for Brute Strength Gym in Norfolk. Strike Fighter Squadron VFA-15 hosted the jet pull, which raised more than $3,000 for the Wounded Warrior Project.
The event brought together the petite and powerful. Some who were new to strength sports watched as seasoned strongmen chugged water out of gallon jugs and warmed up with jump ropes and giant tires.
But even for the veterans, the jet posed a challenge.
Professional strongman Andy Deck had pulled cars and sleds and competed in strength competitions before. But a sleek jet fighter?
"I don't have anything like this to pull," he joked.
The oddity is part of the fun, said David Peters, owner of Brute Strength Gym. His philosophy on the pulls is simple: "The stranger the better."
Once, during a competition, participants pulled the Norfolk bomb squad's truck, he said.
If the jet pull becomes an annual event - and Peters hopes it will - he would like it to upgrade to an even bigger aircraft.
"Everyone loves to see people pull heavy things," he said.
Back in the harness, Petty Officer 3rd Class Nicole Rodriguez didn't care how fast she moved the jet - participants were allowed 75 seconds - as long as it budged. The 24-year-old tried not to be intimidated by the men digging through T-shirt boxes to find size XXL. She had tried to flip one of the giant tires before her turn at the jet, but ended up walking away.
"My goal is always to finish," she said. "And how many people can say they can pull a jet?"
After 27.83 seconds, she was one of them.