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From Fat to Fit: Army Recruiter inspires applicants

By Audrey Hill, Brigade APA 3rd Recruiting Brigade

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We have all read stories where an Army recruiter helped an applicant lose weight to join the Army, but have you ever read one where the recruiter purposely gained weight to help their applicants enlist in the Army?

Staff Sgt. Ashley Shannon is an Army recruiter who went above and beyond to help her applicants enlist in the Army in an unconventional way. 

Two prospective applicants walked into the Madison Army Recruiting Station in Gallatin, Tennessee, wanting to enlist; but after talking with Shannon, who explained she would need to tape and weigh them, the two women soon learned they did not meet the Army weight standards for enlistment.

The women started telling Shannon how hard it was to lose weight.  The thought of trying to lose weight seemed insurmountable to them. 

Shannon saw how discouraged the women were with the idea of losing weight and she wanted to do more than just say, ‘Come back when you lose the weight.’  She told the women she would stay in touch and told them not to lose hope.

She started thinking and knew she needed a plan….a plan not just to help those two women, but future applicants.  Her idea was to purposefully gain weight, set up a fitness training program, and knowing that she too would need to lose weight, workout with the applicants.  To put her plan into action, she would first need the support of her station commander, Sgt. 1st Class Robert Corbitt.

“Staff Sgt. Shannon approached me with her idea of gaining weight and working out with her applicants to lose weight.  She put together a great program that not only benefitted her applicants, but the other recruiters’ applicants would be able to participate as well,” Corbitt said.

Shannon said it was hard to gain the extra weight.  She had to force herself to eat past her limit and she started eating fatty and processed foods. 

“I had to limit doing my lifts, workouts and training, which are my primary stress relievers and consistently saw an influx of one-and-a-half to three pounds a week, then three and four pounds,” she said.  She did, however, make sure to stay within the tape requirements so she would not have to enroll in the Army Body Composition Program. 

Shannon got in touch with the two applicants and asked if they would come back to the station to discuss her plan.  When they saw her, they asked ‘what happened?’

“If you work with me and trust me, I can show you how you can enlist in the Army and get physically fit,” she told the women. 

She went on to explain her fitness training program. She told the women that she wanted to relate to what they were feeling about being overweight, so she came up with the idea to purposefully gain weight. Knowing that she to would need to lose weight, she would work-out with them and together they would motivate and support each other. 

“And, if you decide to enlist or not, I’ll still be there to help you,” Shannon said.

Using the Army Combat Fitness Test  and additional workouts to include strength conditioning, interval training, high-intensity interval training, etc., Shannon scheduled workouts (on her own personal time) at the recruiting station, local gym, during Future Soldier drills, at parks, wherever they could. She initially called the program F.A.T. 2 F.I.T. (Finally Actively Training 2 Focused Inspired and Trained).  

Word soon got out about an Army recruiter conducting fitness training that was open to anyone who wanted to better themselves and joining the Army was not a prerequisite to participate.  Recruiters and their applicants and Future Soldiers participated as well. 

Nashville Company Commander Capt. Marcus Elledge said, “SSG Shannon is a hard working recruiter and takes time to ensure her applicants and potential applicants are doing PT.  It is something she does on her own and has an impact on her personal success as a recruiter.”

Shannon has enlisted eight Future Soldiers from her fitness program and has several more training to meet the weight requirements to enlist.  One of her trainees, 2nd Lt. Chrystal Camacho, attained her goal to lose 35 pounds to join the Army.  She graduated top of her class and was selected to attend aviation school to train as a pilot.

Shannon has since lost the added weight and again meets the Army weight standards.  She added, “Doing this is not something that I would ever suggest to anyone.” 

She believes being a recruiter puts her in a position to help those who want to better themselves achieve their goals.