By T.D. Jackson, Camp Atterbury Public Affairs
Rocky Stroup is a loser. So much so that he looks like a completely different person. After casting off close to 200 pounds over a nine-month period, calling him a loser is not a bad thing.
Rocky, a student at Camp Atterbury’s Job Corps, weighed more than 400 pounds when he entered the program in March. Now he tips the scales between 230 and 235 and he continues to whittle away at his bulk.
“When I came to Job Corps my whole mindset was completely different,” said 24-year-old Rocky. “I always thought about working toward the weight loss but it seemed like such a drag,” he said. “I felt like it was useless if it didn’t show results immediately, but there I learned that if you just do it little by little each day, if you work hard at it you will reach your goal.”
Initially motivated by an unrequited romance, Rocky said once he started losing the weight he wanted to keep at it.
“I educated myself about weight loss and how to do it healthily and how to do it so it would stay off,” he said.
Everything “they,” said was true for Rocky: He ate smaller portions of food more often. He drank more water. And – surprise surprise – he began exercising.
“When I first got on the treadmill at 400 pounds I couldn’t run for 30 seconds,” Rocky said. “Three point five [a low speed on the treadmill] was running for me,” he said.
“Now I walk at three point five. I run at six. I can run for almost five minutes straight and that’s not jogging,” he said proudly. “That’s a run.”
Rocky said one of the biggest challenges he faced when he first started working out was the small amounts of weight loss.
“It was kind of discouraging,” he said. “When you’re bigger you don’t really notice a 10-pound weight loss.”
Rocky also had to hide his embarrassment during workouts in the gym.
“I was big, so people expected me to be strong and when I tried to lift weights I couldn’t lift that much because I wasn’t used to it,” he said. “Seeing the people around you lift almost double what you were doing.it was discouraging, but I’ve gradually stepped up.”
During his time at Job Corps, Rocky made use of Camp Atterbury’s Fitness Center while he was interning on post. Job Corps is a program that helps young people ages 16 through 24 improve the quality of their lives through career technical and academic training. At Atterbury Job Corps, students also have the opportunity to complete internships at certain offices on post.
Rocky interned at the Judge Advocate General office and Lt. Col. Edward McDonald, a legal assistance attorney there, said he and his staff usually head to the gym at lunch time, and when Rocky was there he always tagged along.
“He went to the gym with us and when we would run he would run,” McDonald said.
“You could visibly see him getting thinner,” he said. “In two six week periods he looks like a different person.”
Sprints weren’t the only thing Rocky was running at Camp Atterbury. To hear McDonald tell it, the intern did everything but walk on water.
“He became a real asset because we had some heavy mobilizations and by answering the phone he would free up [a Soldier] to do other tasks,” McDonald said. “When you free up people you multiply your resources,” he said.
McDonald said Rocky reminded him of a Soldier: diligent, obedient, and efficient. Acting as a paralegal, Rocky embodied the Soldier’s Creed by becoming “trained and proficient;” he was always on hand making file copies, preparing documents for binding, labeling files, answering calls, taking messages, etcetera etcetera.
“Anything you can think of,” McDonald said. “He’s the best worker we’ve had in three years,” he said. “He became an integral part of our office. When somebody incorporates that well into your office it does throw off the balance when he leaves. I’m sad to see him go.”
For all the skills Rocky picked up in the JAG office, making friends was the one he valued most.
“I moved around a lot and I never really made stable friends anywhere,” Rocky said. “[The JAG staff] treated me as if I was family and I learned to open up a little bit,” he said. “I think that’s the most important thing that I did learn over there that’s going to carry on to my new life.”
Rocky’s new life now includes an education, which he is working on at Indiana University Purdue University Columbus. In his old life, one marked with misdeeds and moving from state to state, education perhaps was not a priority. Neither Rocky’s parents, who are deceased, nor anyone in his family ever went to college, but getting a degree is now the next box to check on his “To Do” list.
“My goal was to get into the university,” he said. “I wouldn’t have accepted ‘no’ as an answer, because I was already there in my heart.”
That type of determination is what gets results. From getting his GED to losing more than 189 pounds -the weight of the average man -Rocky sets up his goals like bowling pins and one by one he knocks them down.
“My ultimate target now is just to be happy,” he said. “I’m gonna change my lifestyle and see where God takes me on my weight loss. Wherever I stop losing weight will be where I’m fine at.”
By T.D. Jackson, Camp Atterbury Public Affairs