JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. - Welcome to SWEAT.

It's a two-week New Jersey Army National Guard program that stands for Soldier Wellness Education and Training and it was created to help Soldiers whose careers have been set back -- or will end prematurely -- unless they improve their physical fitness.

"For some people, this may be their last chance," said 1st Sgt. Peter Sarni III, one of the instructors. "We're showing them that they may have dug themselves a hole, but they can get themselves out with the right tools."

Those tools include the yin of low-key classes on topics such as nutrition, basic physiology and resiliency, where healthy snacking is encouraged, and the yang of blood-boiling workout sessions where the Soldiers are pushed to their absolute limit.

Soldiers like Sgt. Richard Hutton say the reason they have come to love the program is this balance.

"The cadre are hardcore when we're doing PT," he said. "But they are also compassionate. You know they want you to do well."

Like nearly all of the 23 Soldiers in the current SWEAT class, Hutton, 35, serves in the National Guard part-time. He said that the demands of a new civilian job as a mental health technician, college classes and a new baby took their toll on his workout routine.

His failure on his most recent Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT) prevents him from attending military schools that make him eligible for promotion and could ultimately end his career entirely.

"It's embarrassing and it's a detriment to my career," he said. "I had started to really beat myself up. This course has me back on track. I love it. I just wish it was longer.

Everyone enrolled in the course volunteered.

Spc. Poonam Singh sees the SWEAT program as an opportunity pursue a longtime ambition --an officer's commission.

But her inability to handle the physical demands of the New Jersey Army National Guard Officer Candidate course forced her to drop out. She vows that if she has the opportunity to go back, her fitness won't be an impediment this time.

Singh, 37, lost seven percent of her body fat and four inches in just 10 days in the SWEAT program. She said she learned that for her body type, many small meals a day is better than two or three big ones.

"This course has really been about wellness," she said. "It's not just a smoke session."

As the course wound down on July 25, Sarni offered the class words of encouragement after their most challenging day of workouts, which began with 6 a.m. in a swimming pool at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst and ended nearly 12-hours later with a 90-minute workout that included a 3-mile run, circuit training and weights.

"We're proud of you," Sarni said. "You have earned our respect."