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Face of Defense: Future Airman Loses 160 Pounds, Gains Confidence

By Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jennifer Lindsey
Special to American Forces Press Service

RANDOLPH AIR FORCE BASE, Texas, Jan. 2, 2009 – For the past 15 months, Leo Knight-Inglesby has pushed himself beyond the limits he and his loved ones ever thought possible.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Leo Knight-Inglesby, left, reviews his Air Force enlistment contract with his recruiter, Air Force Staff Sgt. Ty Lopez, in the Rockville, Md., recruiting office. The 22-year-old lost more than 160 pounds to join the Air Force. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ty Lopez
  

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

The 22-year-old Silver Spring, Md., native shed more than 160 pounds to meet the physical standard of Air Force enlistment, amazing his recruiter, family and friends.

"No one believed I would do it till I showed them the [enlistment] papers," Knight-Inglesby said. "My life has completely changed. Not only am I stronger, physically, I am mentally stronger and more confident."

Today, the former 351-pound college freshman noshes only on healthy food, limits his daily caloric intake and exercises at least five days a week. Although he maintains the same smile, he looks like a different person at about 190 pounds, his recruiter, Air Force Staff Sgt. Ty Lopez, said.

"He's well on his way to making his goal of 185 pounds before heading to basic military training," Lopez said.

Knight-Inglesby is scheduled to enter basic training at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, in March, but said he hopes to attend earlier if a spot becomes available.

The 317th Recruiting Squadron recruiter caught Knight-Inglesby's attention in the summer of 2007 while speaking about Air Force opportunities to a group of people near a local community college.

"I wasn't getting much interest out of anyone except an obviously overweight guy in the back of the group," Lopez recalled. "He asked me questions that I gladly answered in hopes that the other guys in the group would become interested. At the end of our conversation, Leo said he wanted to join."

The recruiter told the young man he looked heavier than the maximum allowable weight to enlist, and that at his height he needed to weigh under 202 pounds to join. A week later, Knight-Inglesby visited Lopez, tipping the recruiting office scale at 347 pounds and leading the future airman to a serious evaluation of his life.

"My uncle was overweight and had a massive heart attack, and I didn't want that to happen to me" he said. "I knew I had to get my life on track, and I wanted the benefits the Air Force offers."

The potential to travel overseas, especially to Germany, remains a powerful motivator for Knight-Inglesby, as does his father's encouragement to serve in the military. Both his grandfathers and father served in the Army, and his brother serves in the Navy.

The only issue that kept Knight-Inglesby from becoming an airman earlier was his girth, he said.

Lopez said Knight-Inglesby's weight loss gave him insight on the power of personal determination. When Knight-Inglesby proved he was serious about making the standard, Lopez joined him at the gym and helped the future airman continue when he reached a plateau in his weight loss at 220 pounds.

"We worked hard and he would never give up," Lopez said. "No matter how hard I worked him or how tired he got, he would keep going and ask for more.

"As a recruiter, we get hung up on time management,” he continued. “I have 28 high schools and colleges to visit every month in addition to scheduled appointments. Applicants 15 to 20 pounds overweight say they want to join and that they'll lose the weight, then I never hear from them again. But based on Leo's case, now I'll think twice about not taking them seriously."

(Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jennifer Lindsey serves in the Air Force Recruiting Service public affairs office.)

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