By By VINCE LITTLEDecember 15, 2011
FORT BENNING, Ga. -- In October 2010, Scott Jones was studying computer graphics and Web design at a local community and technical college in Kentucky when he came to a personal crossroads. At the time, he topped the scales at nearly 440 pounds.
"I literally got up one morning, stood in front of my computer ready to jump in on an online class and I said, 'I'm fed up with it,'" he recalled. "It was a snap decision just to go out and start doing it. … I tried (losing weight) before, but I didn't stick with it."
That day, the 6-foot-2 Jones set in motion a chain of events that changed his entire life and led to the realization of a dream, he said. The 22-year- old now weighs 250 pounds, will graduate Thursday from Cavalry scout one station unit training on Harmony Church and is headed to Airborne School after the New Year.
"Back then, I never would've pictured myself even wearing the uniform or holding an M-4 in my hand," he said. "I didn't think I'd make it this far. I guess if you really want something, you're going to get it. There's gonna be a lot of people along the way tell you that you can't, but you can do it.
"You have to do whatever it takes, because if you really want something, that's what you will do."
After finishing up home schooling in Lancaster, Ky., at age 17, Jones said he tried out for a local semipro football team. He made the cut as a center and defensive tackle, playing part of a season with the Capital City Wardogs in Frankfort before enrolling in college. He weighed about 365 pounds.
As his weight continued to balloon, he made good grades and appeared on track for a job in the computer field, he said. That's when he began to hear a different calling.
Jones said he always gravitated toward the Army -- his father still serves in the National Guard, while a great-grandfather had been a Cavalry scout.
"It was more of something I wanted to do than sit behind a computer," he said. "I always thought maybe the Army would be something I'd do someday, but I could never see myself doing it just because of the weight. … Eventually, I just decided it's no way to live a life that heavy. Things will just get better if I go out, run and try to lose the weight on my own. That's basically what I did."
On that morning 14 months ago, Jones said he stepped outside to see how long he could jog. He barely made it anywhere. Then, he started doing jumping jacks, push-ups and sit-ups in the family garage.
Two weeks later, he managed to run a little further, which soon led to longer distances. It turned into a two-mile jaunt from his house to an area lake -- and ultimately there and back.
"It was extremely difficult at first, and I started off slow," he said. "It was all just a progression thing."
Later, Jones could cover seven miles between his hometown and Burgin, Ky. He termed it a "victory lap," and then wound up reaching the 12-mile mark.
He said he eliminated all junk and fast food within his diet. He ate smaller meals throughout the day, but never adopted any sort of radical eating regimen.
Emboldened by success, Jones began visiting local Army recruiters. But getting fitted for ACUs didn't happen overnight, he said. It took many trips before he got inside weight standards and met body mass index requirements for the service oath.
"A lot of times, I wanted to give up," he said. "Starting and stopping: I was that way for a long time. I finally decided to stop playing games and just stick with it."
Now a private first class, Jones was down to 290 pounds when he showed up at Fort Benning in August for OSUT with E Troop, 5th Squadron, 15th Cavalry Regiment, 194th Armored Brigade. He had lost about 150 pounds in less than a year.
His family visited in early November after the unit wrapped up its basic training phase -- and almost didn't recognize what they saw.
"To watch him do that painful shuffle from here to the lake, up and down hills, to the transformation to where he is now, it's a testament to his character," said his mother, Joan Ann Brown. "I think it's remarkable."
Jones and Pfc. Daniel Estrada, his battle buddy, were the only two Soldiers from E Troop selected for jump school. They start Jan. 2 and will go to Fort Bragg, N.C., afterward for their first duty station.