MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT SAN DIEGO, Calif. – For many potential recruits, enlisting in the Marine Corps is as easy as talking to a recruiter. But for some, it takes some willpower.
Marine Corps Pvt. Alexander D. Klopfenstein, Platoon 1025, Bravo Company, 1st Recruit Training Battalion, had to put in some grueling work before he could even consider enlisting.
Klopfenstein was born in Bakersfield, California, but he moved around a lot during his high school years. Eventually, the family decided to settle down back in Bakersfield, where he became a member of the Bakersfield High School’s swim team until graduating in 2012.
Klopfenstein said he loved to swim and competed in the 50-, 200- and 500-meter races. It wasn’t until he graduated from high school, he added, that he started dealing with weight problems.
“When I was on the swim team, I would be on a very high-caloric diet,” the 20-year-old Marine said. “After the school year was over, I kept eating the way I had been and wasn’t doing enough exercise to burn it all off, which resulted in me gaining a substantial amount of weight.”
At the peak of his weight, and standing at 5 feet 11 inches, Klopfenstein weighed about 270 pounds. His dream always had been to pursue a life in the Marine Corps, he said, but he didn’t know if he would be able to serve because of his weight.
“When I first went to talk to the recruiter, they told me I was too big to join,” he said. “I knew that I had to lose the weight and get down to the Marine Corps standards because of how bad I wanted it.”
Klopfenstein said he began jogging every day and changed his diet to six small, healthy meals in pursuit of his goal. “The only thing that kept me motivated was that I have always wanted to become a Marine, and I wasn’t going to let the opportunity pass by,” he said.
Months passed while Klopfenstein stayed dedicated to his routine of jogging and eating correctly, and he began to notice the drop in his weight. His motivation and determination did not go unnoticed by the Marines in his recruiting station when he returned some time later.
“For about two months before Klopfenstein left for recruit training, he was in our office every day working on his pull-ups, crunches and sit-ups,” said Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Richard G. Guerrero, station commander, Recruiting Substation Bakersfield East. “We saw the motivation and knew how bad he wanted to be a Marine.”
Klopfenstein’s recruiter and Marines from their office used him as an example for others who wanted to join the Marine Corps and would often say, “If Klopfenstein can do it, you can, too,” explained Guerrero, a Los Angeles native.
In April 2014, Klopfenstein arrived here and began recruit training. During his training, he lost 25 more pounds, dropping his weight to 180 pounds.
Having completed all of the requirements in recruit training to earn the title Marine, Klopfenstein will now attend Marine Combat Training at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, and then move on to his military occupational specialty school as an intelligence specialist.
“When I first got to recruit training, I couldn’t even run 3 miles,” he said. “Now I can, and it feels amazing.”