By Ms. Marie Berberea (TRADOC)July 17, 2014
FORT SILL, Okla. -- Soldiers' transformations in Basic Combat Training are usually evident on graduation day. They stand taller, they look a person in the eyes, their pride in achieving their training is evident. For one such Soldier, that pride was earned before graduation by overcoming his biggest obstacle: weight.
Pfc. Benne Constant, C Battery, 1st Battalion, 19th Field Artillery, first went to an Army recruiter weighing 275 pounds. On his 5-foot-8-inch frame, the recruiter told him to begin exercising to trim down before BCT.
"Life before the Army was full of trying to get around things," admits Constant. "Let me try this diet, let me try this juicing diet. Oh, I don't like cardio, I'll just jump on the eliptical for a five minutes and it's like the same thing."
He said when his friends would ask him to run with them he would continually put it off.
"In the Army there's no luxury to say I'll run the next day, or the next day. I don't believe my drill sergeants would've taken that lightly."
Constant said he learned there are no shortcuts. The trends that sweep the civilian world may promise results, but the only way to get them is to put in the work.
His drill sergeants saw to that.
Drill Sgt. (Staff Sgt.) Patrick Birkholz said after the trainees' took their 1-1-1 assessment that showed their capabilities in doing pushups, situps and running, the drill sergeants made sure Soldiers who needed help in any area - got it.
For Constant that meant he would be a road guard.
"I've been doing this for 22 months now and I can count on more than both hands examples of Soldiers coming in and we've transformed them just by showing them how to do it mentally. It has nothing to do with physical ability because some of the ones who come here physically strong are the ones who quit," said Birkholz.
Constant said around Week Three he contemplated giving up.
"It was just waking up in the morning and grabbing the roadguard vest and thinking I have to go run ... again. And, I truly despise cardio."
"Drill sergeant (Kenneth) Marrero pulled me to the side and said 'Sometimes you may want to quit, but you have to keep pushing, and pushing and pushing. Some days are going to be better than others.'"
Constant said another trainer taught him and his fellow trainees to take one small thing and make that their motivation. For Constant, that meant Kelloggs cereal.
"Just taking one positive thing was hey there's cereal tomorrow. Just wake up, put the road guard vest on and all I know is now I'm running to the DFAC, now I'm running back ... a couple more miles and tomorrow I get cereal again."
His eating habits also changed with guidance from Marrero, who taught him to drink a lot of water, eat healthy foods and eat according to his activity level.
Marrero showed him that looking ahead to the next day's schedule was vital for fueling properly. If it was a day in the classroom, that meant Constant should eat light meals the day before. Vice-versa if they were to spend the next day in the field Constant should feed his body so he would be able to sustain himself through the long haul.
"The first two weeks I started I was like I'm still hungry. That was my big thing is I'm always hungry. He was like 'It's going to take some time. That's the problem with weight loss is your metabolism - you've been big for the majority of your life. You're going to have to try and adapt.' Toward the third week it started to really affect me," said Constant.
"My first (ability group run) we ran I fell out immediately."
"Our next AGR I completed the two-mile run. That was the first time in my life I ran two miles without casually walking."
He said he considered being recycled, but his drill sergeants kept reminding him that a short time of hard work was well worth it in comparison to eight more weeks of training and essentially starting all over.
"Putting on my IBA reminds me how big I was. I remember when I first got here making it from the walkway down to the battery was exhausting. I lost my breath, I was fatigued."
Constant said the weightloss was evident when he was double timing in formation and his PT belt fell off.
"He had that look in his eye - I'm not going to quit. He was on profile for like a month. He lost feeling in his foot. That's the underlying reason he was at 22 minutes on that last PT test. He wasn't getting the opportunity to run like he should have for about a month. But, he kept eating right and doing what he could to lose the weight and the results showed," said Birkholz.
Constant's efforts came down to the sixth week of BCT. On June 30 he ran his first two-miles in 22:40. That following Thursday, he ran it in 19:40.
"Drill sergeant (Warees) Kee was like, 'Listen. We're going to run this and you're going to pass, whether you like it or not.'"
On July 5 Constant passed with a two-mile run time of 17:30.
"If I had a whole platoon full of Constants I would be happy. His level of motivation and his level of discipline is what we look for and ask for and he gave it to us. Doesn't matter what his size was, he showed himself and the rest of his battle buddies that it's just a mental thing," said Birkholz.
Constant credits his drills sergeants for his achievement. He said when they saw him wanting to give up, they stepped in. He said Kees, who the trainees call Superman, would run like the wind and show him it could be done.
"Essentially all of our drill sergeants were just one person split up into three different people. And then putting them together they just made the perfect team."
Constant is going to Advanced Individual Training in Fort Sam Houston, Texas to learn to be a medical Iaboratory technician.
He currently weighs 210 pounds and said he will continue to eat healthy and strive for a better PT score.
"Still a long way to go. Drill sergeant is telling us we have AIT coming up, so you know it doesn't stop here, it keeps going."