By Staff Sgt. Michel Sauret
Multi-National Division - Center
CAMP LIBERTY, Iraq – Specialist Joshua Yanez weighed 325 pounds and failed the enlistment requirements for the Army when he was in high school.
Today, Yanez is 105 pounds lighter and a gunner for the 57th Transportation Company, 548th Combat Support Sustainment Brigade.
Yanez works constantly to stay in shape and keep his weight off. For everything he lost to join the Army, he's given back a whole lot more.
"I could go on about the weight [I lost] all day ... but honestly, getting people in [the Army], I love that. I love getting people interested about [the Army]. I love to tell people, 'Hey, this is about the best life I've ever had.'"
In all, Yanez earned a total of $8,000 for his recruiting efforts through an Army referral program. He recognizes he could have never helped other Soldiers join if he didn't stay committed to his own career.
"I wanted them to succeed ... I told them, you've got a guaranteed job, guaranteed paycheck, guaranteed education if you want it, guaranteed benefits, everything," he said. "They're all proud they did it. They have no regrets."
One of the five Soldiers Yanez recruited also struggled with his weight. He shared his own story and demonstrated it was possible to succeed in losing the weight in order to gain a good career.
"He was scared that he would be picked on [during basic combat training], that he would be called names," he said.
Yanez assured him that behavior is "tough love," and the rewards would be worth it.
The other two recruits Yanez provided the Army were his best friends in high school. Both saw a life and stability in Yanez they wanted for themselves and their families.
"[They] saw that I had money, I had a nice car and that I was always going places with my wife and my kid," said Yanez, who has a daughter, Jaidan, 3, and wife, Meghan. They are also expecting another child.
Yanez could really reach out to his friends because he knew just how difficult it is to continue making the commitment necessary for success in the military.
Coming from a naturally heavy family, Yanez's drill instructors at Fort Benning, Ga., knew he would need extra work to get him in shape. They weren't going to sugarcoat his weight problem, and instead addressed it directly.
"In basic training they pretty much starved me. For breakfast, I had two boiled eggs, sausage patty. For lunch and dinner, I had a tuna fish or a ham-and-turkey sandwich. I did [physical training] every chance I got. I got smoked for nothing."
He lost 90 pounds by the end of basic training, and he went on to study human intelligence during his advance individual training school. Yanez's first duty station was Fort Huachuca, Ariz., where he spent most of his day in the office analyzing data on a screen. Suddenly, the strain of basic training wasn't there anymore to keep him in check on the scale.
"I just got real lazy and gained all my weight back," he said. "I couldn't pass my PT test. I couldn't pass my tape test."
Before long, he was told he would be kicked out if he didn't shape up. The realization of what he could lose settled in, and he realized a change needed to happen.
"That was one of my turning points," he said.
He transferred jobs, trained to become a truck driver and moved to Fort Drum, N.Y., hoping for a fresh start.
The first thing his first sergeant told him was, "We do PT here, you know that, right?"
His commitment to the military was continuously challenged by the temptation to quit.
"I just couldn't take it no more. I was tired of being big. I had to make a lot of sacrifices, go to the gym, do PT three times a day."
Since coming to Iraq, he's slimmed back down to 240, which makes it easier to fit through the turret hole as a gunner, especially with the ballistic vest he wears as armor. He said if it weren't for this deployment, he might be back to being as big as he ever was.
One of his main goals once he returns home from deployment is to eventually become a recruiter. He wants to be just like his own recruiter was: up front and honest about the challenges his recruits would face.
"If this is what you really want, it's something you've got to give your heart to," he said.
This work, Soldier loses weight, helps Army bulk up, by MSG Michel Sauret, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.