MISAWA, AOMORI, JAPAN
NAVAL AIR FACILITY MISAWA, Japan - Morning comes early for Information Systems Technician 1st Class Korey Kilgore. His bedside alarm harkens the beginning of another snowy, cold, wind-whipped morning on board U.S. Naval Air Facility Misawa.
Winter and early springtime weather in northern Japan is traditionally pretty harsh, and this year has been especially intense. With more than 189 inches of snow already fallen, and with temperatures averaging between 20 to 30 degrees Fahrenheit, it would be easy for a Sailor to experience the doldrums of cabin fever.
But Kilgore embraces these mornings. Joltingly, his cellphone alarm vibrates atop his nightstand, signaling that 4:30 a.m. has arrived. The alarm permeates his room with a noisy familiarity that heralds the start of his routine; thus, Kilgore begins his day.
He begins his daily routine the same way he began the previous day, and the day prior to that. In fact this morning’s routine is virtually indistinguishable from the weeks and months that have proceeded this particular day. There is nothing special or extraordinary planned for today - nothing out of the usual, nothing that requires any extra particular attention or consideration. Today is a work day, just like yesterday and the day before.
But Kilgore’s face belies the mundaneness of the situation. While the view from his barrack’s window may paint a bleak picture, his mouth curls into a slight smile. Where others might see tedium, Kilgore sees opportunity. And today is no different.
Minutes after arising from his slumber, Kilgore departs the warmth of his room, and is instantly met by a blast of Misawa’s frosty, morning weather. Regardless of the conditions, the routine continues, as it always does, at the base fitness center.
At 5 feet 9 inches tall, Kilgore carries a jovial lightheartedness that many Misawa Sailors find both infectious and endearing. But checking into NAF Misawa in April 2013, the U.S. Navy’s Physical Fitness Assessment (PFA) found him to be overweight and out of shape.
"I have always had issues with my weight," said the Las Vegas native. “I've struggled from the time I entered the Navy to today.”
Kilgore joined the Navy in January 1998. He always attempted to stay within the Navy's physical fitness standards, but in those days there was no policy threatening military discharge for failing the U.S. Navy's biannual PFA. His steady diet of fast food and sugary beverages, quickly ballooned him out of weight standards, and he found himself discouraged, unmotivated, and, ultimately, with five PFA failures in is his early naval career.
In 2005, a new Navy administrative policy was set in motion stating that a Sailor could not have three PFA failures within the span of the most recent four years. Failure to comply would result with the Navy discharging the Sailor from service. Kilgore, who at this point was married and had a child, decided it was time to make some life changes.
So Kilgore did just enough to pass the fitness tests. In the month preceding each test, he would crash diet and exercise so that he could squeak past the Navy’s Body Composition Analysis and Physical Readiness test, only to resume his bad habits until the next test approached.
"My diet was terrible, and I didn’t have a fitness routine,” he said. “It was more of a mentality that the PFA is coming up in a couple of months so I better hit the gym and cut back on the sweets.”
This particular routine worked for a while, but as Kilgore grew older, his metabolism didn’t respond like it used to. So again, he began struggling to successfully meet the PFA criteria.
"After arriving in Misawa, I failed the BCA,” said Kilgore. “That was an eye-opener for me and I realized that I needed to work on this.
“By the time I took the next BCA, I lost about 15 pounds, but still failed,” he said. “I knew I was working hard but it seemed like I couldn't drop the weight and get over that hump. It was really discouraging to know I was that close and then fail again. I really needed help.”
Kilgore did not have to search long for help. Master Chief Electronics Technician Keith Weathers, originally from Pensacola, Fla., arrived at the command during this time frame and settled in as Kilgore’s departmental leading chief petty officer. Weathers quickly realized that Kilgore needed some healthy guidance and mentorship, so he took Kilgore under his proverbial wing.
"I told him that in order to fulfill the duty and responsibility of being a leading petty officer you must be the cream of the crop in all areas from leadership skills to physical fitness," said Weathers. "You can't lead or inspire your Sailors if you're not a role model for them. I showed him by leading by example, and the rest was on him.”
Weathers helped Kilgore overhaul his lifestyle so that he could ultimately not just pass the PFA, but also make healthy life choices. Together, they begin working out together and developed an early-morning workout routine.
Initially, Kilgore had a difficulty waking up so early and getting motivated to push through the challenge of reconditioning his body.
“It was hard at first, because I didn't like to work out early in the morning," said Kilgore. "So for the first couple of months of getting up at 4:30 a.m. were difficult, but I told myself that this was for my kids and my career. Eventually it became easier, and I got into a routine.
Through spin classes, weight lifting, basketball and regular command physical training, he found himself gaining an energy and drive that he never felt before during his naval career. Additionally, he cut out fast food, substituted fried foods with grilled alternatives, and drank water.
Now, as NAF Misawa prepares to conduct its Spring PFA in May, Kilgore already finds himself well within weight standards and feels great about what he has accomplished.
"I am within standards now, but realize it will always take work to stay here," he said. "After the PFA, I will continue with my routine, because I would like to lose 15 more pounds and achieve my personal goal. Once I get there I will maintain it through healthy diet and regular exercise."
Weathers is happy with the changes he’s seen in his leading petty officer, and said he is proud of Kilgore for taking charge of his fitness and career.
“Petty Officer Kilgore is a great example of what any Sailor can accomplish with a little motivation, dedication and hard work."
So after trudging through the bitterly-cold weather, Kilgore arrives at the fitness center, and is met by two Sailors, who themselves are in need of fitness guidance.
While Kilgore will always consider Weathers a mentor, today he is serving as a mentor as well. With his jovial demeanor, infectiously-positive attitude, and ever-tapering physique, the Sailors look to him for guidance with their own personal goals.
While the sun has yet to arise, the three enter the fitness center on this maudlin, spring morning. With smiles on their faces that belie the weather, they begin their routine, ultimately looking forward to what opportunity the day, and ultimately their career has yet to behold.
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||MISAWA, AOMORI, JP
||LAS VEGAS, NV, US
||PENSACOLA, FL, US
This work, NAF Misawa Sailor commits to culture of fitness, by PO3 Erin Devenberg, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.