FORT DRUM, N.Y. -- Doing well on an Army physical fitness test can be difficult for some Soldiers and extremely easy for others.
Crushing an APFT test is the norm for Sgt. Christopher Baksay, an explosive ordnance disposal technician assigned to 725th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Company, 63rd Explosive Ordnance Disposal Battalion; however, this was not always the case. He joined the Army in 2010 to serve as an Air Defense Battle Management System operator. When he was weighed at the Military Entrance Processing Station, he tipped the scales at 281 pounds with more than 30-percent body fat. The Army height and weight standards require male Soldiers ages 17-20 to have no more than 20-percent body fat.
"Before he left for MEPS, we were nervous that he wouldn't be able to get into the service because he was too hefty," said Terry Baksay, Christopher's father. Before Baksay could join the Army, he would meet with his recruiter twice a week to go to the gym and run. His recruiter assisted him with his diet as well.
"When I finally passed the Army weight requirements, I was able to ship off to basic training," he said. Baksay said the physical training he participated in while at basic combat training was rough, but he knew that everything he was doing was helping him get in better shape. After graduating from basic training, he weighed 250 pounds. "That was the smallest I had been since my freshman year in high school," he said. Only a month after getting assigned to his first unit, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, he was deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. "While I was deployed, I was gaining weight pretty bad," Baksay said. "I actually got to the biggest I've ever been in my life, weighing 291 pounds with a 43.5-inch waist." He said that he was too embarrassed to go to the dining facility and eat because he was so big. Baksay received a counseling statement after he failed to meet the Army height and weight standards for an upcoming APFT. "My unit basically told me that if I don't start losing weight, then I would be chaptered out of the Army," he said. "Almost immediately after receiving my counseling statement, I got online and started researching what I needed to do to lose weight." Baksay said he read everything he could get his hands on to help him lose weight. It wasn't just about losing weight; he was learning how to lose weight the healthiest way possible. "I did a lot of cardio (training) and just as much weight lifting," he said. For the next eight months, he pushed himself in the gym lifting weights, running around the forward operating base and eating a well-balanced diet. The Army requires overweight Soldiers to lose three to eight pounds a month. "I was losing on average about three pounds a week," he said. Baksay said the support he received from the noncommissioned officers in his unit helped him stay motivated. They were constantly checking in with him and seeing how he was doing with his diet and workout. "At that time, there were two other Soldiers who were in the same boat as me," he said. "Once they started seeing me make a difference and actually losing weight, they started asking for advice and looking to me for guidance." He said he started taking time after work to explain what had worked for him to the two Soldiers. Baksay said when he redeployed, he was in the best shape of his life, weighing approximately 220 pounds with less than 17-percent body fat. For the first time in his military career, his flag was lifted. After being stateside for less than two months, he was down to 200 pounds and scored more than a 300 on his APFT.
"That was the first time I maxed a PT test," Baksay said. Everyone told him that people tend to regain the weight they lost, he said. But since his massive weight loss, he has maintained a weight of 198-200 pounds with average of 13-percent body fat and consistently scores more than 270 on his APFT. "He looks great. I'm just not use to seeing him as skinny as he is," said Baksay's father. "I mean, now he wears a size medium shirt. He used to wear a XXL and sometimes even a XXXL." "Now that I've lost so much weight, I will never be that big again," Baksay said. "Not being comfortable with your own body is a very big deal." After losing the weight that had been holding him back from his career progression, Baksay said opportunities opened up to him, such as EOD, Air Assault School and Ranger School. Baksay said when he joined the Army, he was never all that excited about his job. While deployed, he came across an EOD unit and decided he wanted to become an EOD tech. As soon as he was eligible, he started the process of applying for EOD School. "Once my flag was removed, I was finally able to drop my EOD packet," he said. As soon as his packet was accepted, he received six months of on-the-job training with 754th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Company, 63rd EOD Battalion. "Normally, OJT is only three months long," Baksay said. "I was really lucky, because I had the opportunity to stay there for six." The attrition rate at EOD School is more than 75 percent.
"Not everyone who goes through EOD School is guaranteed to graduate," he said. Baksay went to the 11-month school to become an EOD tech and graduated in the top 20 percent of his class.
During that time, he was able to maintain his diet and workout regimen, keeping him fit all through school.
Since he graduated, he goes to the gym with other Soldiers and continues to help anyone who asks.
"Now more than ever I want to help other Soldiers who are where I once was, because I know firsthand how hard it really is," Baksay said. He provides direction to Soldiers with workout techniques and dieting tips. "You just have to have the motivation to get up and go for a run or go to the gym every day," Baksay said. "It's not an easy thing to do, especially when there is something more appealing to do after work." Baksay is scheduled to attend Air Assault School this month.
"I'm really excited about going to Air Assault School," he said. "I can't wait to be challenged mentally and physically." Having all of these schools open to up to him has really changed his outlook on the Army and his military career. "I've never really considered myself a 'hooah' Soldier," Baksay said. "But since these schools are opening up for me, I want to take advantage of them as much as possible."
After Air Assault School, he plans to start preparing for Ranger School. "I want to go to any school that will help better my leadership skills and further my career in the military," Baksay said. "I definitely plan to make the Army a career, and (I) want to make the best of it while I can."