GREAT LAKES (NNS) -- When Seaman Recruit Carly Gray, 21, decided to enlist in the Navy, there was only one thing blocking her way: about 100 pounds.
That was two years ago. Today, SR Gray marched across the drill deck 100 lbs. lighter at her Pass-In-Review graduation ceremony held May 25, in Midway Ceremonial Drill Hall at Recruit Training Command, the Navy's only boot camp.
Prior to joining the Navy, Gray, originally from Beaufort, North Carolina, was working at a marina in California and attending college.
"The decision to join the Navy was a long time ago as I always wanted to do military service, but I was always told I was too big," said Gray. "I went to college but I got to a point where I realized that was my second choice and not really what I always wanted to do. So, I made the decision to leave college, and start trying to lose weight."
Having her spouse in the Navy afforded Gray the opportunity to not have to work and focus solely on her weight-loss goals. She also sought out the guidance of a nutritionist to teach her how to eat correctly.
"I started out by walking at least two hours a day. I'd walk at least two miles and then hit the gym to lift weights. I dropped my first 20 pounds. in about two months," said Gray. "I only started running this year as I finally lost enough weight that I felt comfortable that I wasn't going to damage my body."
As she increased her pace and distance every other week, she eventually was able to run multiple miles, as well as sprints, until she was running at least three miles prior to boot camp.
"I enjoy doing it. It isn't something I had to force myself every day to do. It was something I woke up excited to do every day - I love working out; it's incredible," said Gray. "Now that I've lost 100 pounds. I can do so much more. I don't mind going out anymore. I like being seen now. You can ask anyone here - if there's a mirror, I am looking at it."
Not only was Gray keeping herself motivated in boot camp, right from the get-go upon arrival she was also encouraging her fellow recruits to be in the best shape they could for their baseline Physical Fitness Assessment, which consists of a 1.5-mile run, push-ups and sit-ups.
"At night, I would get them all together and show them how to do proper push-ups and sit-ups, and we did it every night until we did the baseline and it helped a lot of them," said Gray. "When we ran our baseline, I ran slow and told them, 'If you keep with me, you'll pass."
Gray's Recruit Division Commanders recognized her positive outlook and made her a section leader within the division.
"SR Gray always displays a motivational outlook while here at boot camp. She displays great military bearing and is in up keeping with the Navy Core Values of Honor, Courage and Commitment," said Chief Damage Controlman Charles A. Stigall, Recruit Division Commander. "She consistently assists other recruits with tasks and continues to develop daily. During physical training, she motivates others to keep pushing and to stay motivated; gives 100 percent, and continues to develop into becoming a solid foundational Sailor."
While following a strict diet rules at home became routine for Gray, she found eating at the galley during boot camp had some challenges when making choices for leaner items.
"Eating every day here is definitely stressful for me as I'm so used to eating mostly vegetables, chicken and fish. I was doing meal prepping at home and would eat the same meals five days a week as it was the easiest way to manage myself as I no longer live to eat, but eat to live," said Gray. "In the galley, every day I'll have cottage cheese and choose chicken or fish, when it's available. If it's something else, I'll cut it into smaller pieces, to lower the calorie count."
She also focuses on fruit, cereal, a lot of water and said she steers clear of the hot line with choices such as biscuits and sausage, for example, at breakfast time.
"She's been very positive in the decisions in the galley either for herself or when it comes to other recruits as well in regards to their health and safety. She's very good about looking out for others as well as for herself when it comes to doing anything," said Aviation Support Equipment Technician 2nd Class Lisa McDonald, RDC. "She has been very inspirational and she does so with purpose. Gray has been the go-to recruit in times of question, in times of uncertainty with other recruits as well. She's definitely been that model recruit for other recruits to lean on for support and for whatever questions they may have."
For recruits about to head to boot camp who are concerned about passing their PFA, Gray strongly recommends learning proper technique to increase the number of push-ups and sit-ups to meet their requirements.
"You might not be able to run at night but you can definitely do push-ups and sit-ups. There are plenty of people here who also want to improve so join together to help one another, and there's always someone fit in the division willing to help you to pass," said Gray. "Be honest with yourself. Don't tell yourself you're doing all these push-ups but your arms are barely moving or all these sit-ups but your back isn't going down all the way."
On her final PFA, Gray accomplished 56 push-ups and 88 sit-ups in the allotted time.
Next up for Gray, who has been assigned the rate of Air Crewman, she heads to Pensacola, Florida for "A" School, where she is looking forward to stepping up her workout routine on a regular basis again.
"If she keeps on this path, she will no doubt become a highly productive Sailor and develop into a leader who gets them to not only believe in her, but in themselves as well," said Stigall.
As she leaves boot camp, she offers parting words to anyone doubting their own ability to shave off pounds.
"The word 'quit' doesn't exist for me. For anyone looking to lose weight, know you can do it. I said it for years that I couldn't do it but I began making the small steps," said Gray. "Learn to cut your portions and don't be afraid to try anything. Before, I would never touch vegetables and now I'm eating all kinds! You have to remember at the end of the day what's your goal? Your goal is to lose weight."
Boot camp is approximately eight weeks and all enlistees into the U.S. Navy begin their careers at the command. Training includes physical fitness, seamanship, firearms, firefighting and shipboard damage control along with lessons in Navy heritage and core values, teamwork and discipline. About 38,000 to 40,000 recruits graduate annually form RTC and begin their Navy careers.
For more news from Recruit Training Command, visit www.navy.mil/local/rtc.