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Face of Defense: Weight Loss Paves Airman's Road to Success

By Air Force Airman 1st Class David Salanitri
Special to American Forces Press Service

KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss., Feb. 2, 2009 – When Steven Childers decided he wanted to join the Air Force to follow in his father’s footsteps, he knew some changes were in order, because he was significantly overweight.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Retired Air Force Master Sgt. Tim Childers, left, and his son, Airman 1st Class Steven Childers, stand next to each other after the younger Childers graduated from basic military training at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. Courtesy photo

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

"I would get out of breath just walking up the stairs from my room to the living room,” he said. “That's when I knew I needed a change." Knowing he had a long way to go to meet standards, he said, he waited a few months before visiting a recruiter.

"I lost about 20 pounds when I first went to the recruiter, which was enough to get the paperwork going, but I still needed to lose more,” he said. “I started walking around my building during my lunch breaks at work. I cut out fried foods and started to run with my dad, who was training for a marathon.”

Childers’ father is a retired Air Force master sergeant.

“The first time my dad took me out to run,” Childers said, I felt like I was going to have a heart attack after only one mile."

But after losing 70 pounds Childers was sworn into the Air Force and shipped off for basic training. But his success story doesn't end there.

He entered the Air Force in November, and was among the airmen to graduate from the new 8.5-week basic military training course at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas.

"My dad told me about being a BMT honor graduate -- what it was and what it meant. He told me if you earn honor grad that you get a ribbon -- a ribbon he doesn't have, which made me want it even more."

Childers was selected as an honor graduate at the end of basic military training.

"It was such an honor to wear my uniform at his graduation -- just to stand shoulder to shoulder with him and be able to pass on the legacy was moving for me," retired Master Sgt. Tim Childers, Airman Childers' father, said.

"I wanted a solid career so I could provide for me and my wife," said the younger Childers, a Utah native who is now a student in the 338th Training Squadron's electronic principles course here. His wife, Ashley, said BMT training was one of the proudest moments of her life.

"I know all of the men and women had worked hard to get through basic training, but I knew that Steven started working hard long before basic training," she said.

Eighty pounds lighter since his journey to join the Air Force began, Childers said he is healthier and happier than he ever has been.

"I ran the fastest mile I have ever run in my entire life last week," he said. "I have more energy than ever before, and I feel confident in myself."

"It has been amazing to watch him come from obese to healthy," his wife said. "I know it wasn't easy, but he just kept working hard. I cry every time I look at the old pictures of my husband, because it reminds me of his outstanding dedication. He wanted to join the Air Force, so he did what he had to do."

(Air Force Airman 1st Class David Salanitri serves in the 81st Training Wing public affairs office.)

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