RIVERSIDE -- "My goal was to serve, better myself and my future," said Future Sailor Bridgette Duarte. It seemed like an easy goal to accomplish by joining the military except that she faced a challenge; her weight. Her medical providers had advised she was on the border of becoming obese by just a few pounds.
Feeling stuck in the life with an unstable job, wanting more independence and determined not to be part of the 75 percent of 17 to 24 year-olds ineligible to qualify for military service which includes obesity, according to a 2007 group study developed by the US Army Accessions Command, prompted her to make a lifestyle change.
"I really wanted to join the military and I didn't know where to start," said Duarte. "My weight was getting in the way of all these things I wanted to do. I couldn't do the simplest stuff, climb stairs, I couldn't run a mile straight I would have to stop," said Duarte.
Before she could even began the application process to join the military she needed to lose weight. So in January 2013, her journey began when her mom got her a personal trainer as a Christmas present.
She began working out four to five days a week and by May 2013 those work outs increased to six to seven days a week resulting in losing five dress sizes.
"I look at it [being healthy] as a preventive tool. It's better than going to doctors and taking medication."
By April 2014, she had lost 55 pounds. That same month her friend asked her to go with her to talk to an Air Force recruiter. After they were done and heading to the parking lot they noticed the Navy recruiting office and decided to go in and see what they had to offer.
"After I talked to the recruiter I thought the Navy was a great choice," said Duarte. "You travel everywhere in the world and get to work at the same time, plus you get all these amazing benefits."
Durate joined the Navy Delayed Entry Program in April as an Operations Specialist and will be reporting to Recruit Training Center, Great Lakes, Ill., in September.
Through her year and half weight loss journey she said her hardest obstacle to overcome would be changing her negative outlook when it came to improving her fitness.
"I wasn't getting anywhere with being negative. So I looked for other ways to push myself, like those who doubted me in the past," said Duarte. " I've been made fun of before and I would use that to motivate myself and then say 'hey!' I'm getting in shape and trying to better myself."
Losing ten dress sizes is a big accomplishment, but to her the accomplishment was joining the Navy.
"Being able to join the Navy was the one motivation that I just kept looking at," said Duarte. "It was the prize in the long run. It was the finishing line kinda thing."
Since entering the Delayed Entry Program her recruiter has noticed more than just a person who is motivated to work out in the stations bi-weekly physical training sessions.
"She strives do better, not just with her weight but with military knowledge. She has become a peer mentor as well," said Operation Specialist First Class Nicholas Shelton, Navy Recruiting Station Riverside. "She always participates in study sessions and gives advice on things she learned military wise or anything else. No doubt she will do great."
What she looks forward to the most about being in the Navy.
"Serving my country, traveling, working at the same time and exploring what the Navy has to offer."