Face of Defense: Guard Soldier Loses 100 Pounds
By Army Sgt. Rebekah Malone
Louisiana National Guard
PINEVILLE, La., Jan. 25, 2011 Army Spc. Alejandro Zuniga of the Louisiana National Guard scored 401 points on his most recent Army physical fitness test -- something even he found hard to believe, considering the state he was in less than two years ago.
Army Spc. Alejandro Zuniga of the Louisiana National Guard runs four miles a day, six days a week. His workout routine -– which led to a 100-pound weight loss -- allowed him to exceed a perfect score on the Army physical fitness test. U.S. Army photo by Spc. Scott M. Mucci
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Zuniga, a member of the 1021st Engineering Company, 205th Engineer Battalion, overcame tremendous odds recently when he racked up well over the maximum number of points needed to score an excellent rating on the test.
Just 18 months ago, and 100 pounds heavier, Zuniga was battling despair and depression. One day, he’d had enough.
"When I was bigger, I was on the edge of depression. I felt helpless," Zuniga said. "Just one day something someone said struck me. I am so much more confident now."
Too large to run, Zuniga started by walking. Within a couple of months, he was able to run three miles without walking. Today, he runs four miles a day, six days a week, then boosts his workout with 100 push-ups a day and lifts weights for at least an hour. This strict program allowed Zuniga to achieve a feat few Guardsmen attain.
"I almost passed out when I heard," Zuniga said. His first sergeant had a similar reaction.
"I said, 'Are you serious?'" Army 1st Sgt. Jack Toney said about hearing Zuniga's score. "A perfect score is 100 points in each of three categories on the test, for a total combined score of 300. I have never seen a score like this one in 24 years of service."
Zuniga completed 112 push-ups, 117 sit-ups and ran the two-mile run in 10:07. An unofficial extended scale is used once a soldier passes the total event requirement for a perfect score. He was awarded one additional point for each push-up and sit-up, and six seconds off his time for the run.
Toney saw Zuniga's work ethic first-hand when they served together on Task Force Kout Men in Haiti last summer. Even after an exhausting day of construction work, the devoted soldier still made time for a workout.
"Zuniga would work, and I mean work, all day on his project site and come back to the base camp and run and do PT on his own," Toney said.
"It was incredible. I wouldn't have believed it if I didn't see it myself," said Army Sgt. Patrick Mahoney, who graded Zuniga's fitness test. Mahoney said his main concern was being able to count fast enough.
Not content with his personal success, Zuniga has started helping others achieve their exercise goals as well.
"I want to be a trainer for the National Guard," he said. "I want to be that person to go to get help. If I was 265 pounds and lost 100 pounds, I know everyone else can, too."