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Army National Guardsman transforms himself

CAMP MURRAY, WASH.,-- In February Spc. Joshua Medford found himself at a crossroads.

He's spent the last 16 years doing what he loves to do. Medford went on two deployments to Iraq with his unit, Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 2-146th Field Artillery Regiment, as well as helping the citizens of Washington on state active duty during heavy flooding in 2007. He cared for his fellow Soldiers. He did his job and he did it well.

By all accounts he was a good troop.

But Medford was flagged for being overweight and for failing the run portion of the Army Physical Fitness Test. Subsequently he couldn't reenlist, he couldn't receive an award. All favorable actions toward him were suspended.

"It's frustrating when you have to tell people 'Look, I know I'm a good troop. I just don't pass height and weight and I just don't pass my run on the APFT,'" Medford recalled.

The Army places restrictions on how heavy one can be based on their height and age. If someone weighs in over the limit then they are flagged until they can come within the standards again.

This administrative disciplinary action made Medford rethink the current path he was headed down in his life. If he doesn't do anything about it he could be forced out of the Guard. Medford is also a full time technician at the personnel office. If he's not in the Guard he could lose his full time position as well.

"If I didn't do anything about it I was going to ETS (Expiration Term of Service) with only sixteen years," Medford said. "I wanted to make sure I got to my retirement."

Life changing decisions like this are never easy to make. Nor are they made alone. Medford enlisted the help of his first-line leader in his field artillery unit, Staff Sgt. Joshua Orr, as well as one of his co-workers, Capt. Nicholas Zaharevich.

With his new found help he first attended a week-long "Fit and Resilient" course hosted by the Joint Service Support Directorate. The class gives Guardsmen a crash course in the fundamentals of many forms of exercise, as well as the tools one would need to break through the mental barriers that keep one from achieving their full potential.

Next he went on a juice diet for a month. They got the idea from the 2010 documentary "Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead." In the film, an obese man vows to regain his health by consuming only fresh fruits and vegetables for 60 days. Medford was able to lose a lot of weight in the first month by restricting his food intake. He then maintained a strict regimen of diet and exercise. Day after day he would be outside building 15 exercising with Zaharevich or jogging on the perimeter trail of Camp Murray.

It took a tremendous amount of determination for many months and finally Medford was able to pass the APFT and measure within height and weight standards.

"It was great to see the look of pride on his face as he came across (the finish line) and he realized that for the first time in a very long time that he had done it," Orr said. "Every step of the way, Medford did it."

To make the occasion even more memorable, Orr asked Medford what he wanted to do when he reenlisted. Soldiers often reenlist at interesting or notable places in order to bring a more special meaning to their oath of enlistment.

"I sent Staff Sgt. Orr a text one morning when I was feeling pretty motivated. I said, 'Why don't we do it at the top of Mount Adams,'" Medford said.

They spent the next several months planning and training for the climb. On Sept. 20, they clambered up the south slope of the volcano for nine hours. Once they reached the summit, the U.S. flag was unfurled and Medford raised his right hand to recite the oath of enlistment.

Looking back on his transformation, Medford can't help but have words of gratitude for the network of support that he received during his fitness journey. Especially the support from his wife who was a huge driving force behind his success.

"My wife, Vennessa, supported me throughout the transformation," said Medford. "She has been there from day one."

Now that Medford sees the value in leading a healthy and active lifestyle, he wants to pass those values on to someone who can greatly benefit from them; his baby daughter, Maiah.

"I take care of myself so that I can take care of them," Medford said. "I want Maiah to grow up with the idea that this is what you're supposed to do. You're supposed to be out there and you're supposed to be active."

"It was awesome to see his transformation, and his first instinct is to teach someone else how to do this," Orr said. "I really think that speaks to him as a leader."