Airman overcomes odds to deploy to Kyrgyzstan
Staff Sgt. Jarret Espiritu poses for a photo prior to departing the Transit Center at Manas, Kyrgyzstan. About a month before leaving for his deployment here, Espiritu was recovering from a back injury and weighed approximately 215 pounds. During the past six months he has worked hard to recover from his injury, shed 32 pounds and scored a 97.9 percent on his fitness assessment. Espiritu is assigned to the 376th Expeditionary Force Support Squadron as the NCO in charge of the utilities section. He is deployed from Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D. (Courtesy photo)
Airman overcomes odds to deploy to Kyrgyzstan

by Tech. Sgt. Tammie Moore
376th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

10/12/2011 - TRANSIT CETNER AT MANAS, Kyrgyzstan  -- About a month prior to arriving here, the noncommissioned officer in charge of the 376th Expeditionary Force Support Squadron utilities section was broken.

Staff Sgt. Jarret Espiritu had been passed over for other deployments because of a back injury, he wasn't going to let it happen again.

"A couple of months before this deployment, I weighed approximately 215 pounds," he said. "I was overweight, out of shape and worst of all, I was injured."

After hurting his back at work in 2009 Espiritu tried to ignore the injury and was moderately successful. Then he aggravated it later that year during a basketball game. While attempting a rebound, he rolled over, landed wrong and felt a sharp throbbing pain in his lower back.

"I knew something was wrong, but I didn't think it was serious," Espiritu said. "I drove back home and tried to sleep it off, hoping that my back would feel normal the next morning. When I woke up I looked in the mirror and knew I wasn't OK."

No longer able to deal with the injury on his own, Espiritu turned to his medical primary care manager at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., who referred him to a specialist.

"I was put on a temporary medical profile limiting my physical capabilities," he said. "I couldn't stand it."

Espiritu began a physical therapy regimen, medication and chiropractic care, but after more than six months of treatment, he was not progressing as well as he had hoped. He went back to his primary care manager to address his concerns. She gave him a few additional options to consider such as surgery and Cortisone shots then Espiritu was scheduled for an MRI.

"Within a matter of days, my flight chief called to tell me of a possible deployment tasking," Espiritu said. "I didn't want to let anyone down especially in my unit."

This is when Espiritu took his journey back to health into his own hands.

"I got tasked for this deployment and I really wanted to go, but at the time they would not medically clear me," Espiritu said. "So, I made a life-changing decision and I did my best to get better. It was hard because I was in a lot of pain. It was more of a mental challenge for me than a physical one, because I knew nobody was going to be able to do it but me. But, I honestly believed that if I (changed, it would) turn my life around; and it did."

Espiritu begged his doctor to medically clear him if he could meet the deployment requirements.

"I was focused and prepared to transform myself for this deployment, so I began my training," he said. "The first thing I tackled was my nutrition. I completely cut out all fast and fried foods. I only ate fish and chicken. I started limiting my carbohydrate intake. I also forced myself to eat breakfast and have (six smaller meals a day) no matter how busy I was."

In addition, Espiritu began researching workouts and created exercise regimens that would work with his schedule.

"Within weeks, I noticed a difference in how I felt and the way I looked," he said.

His hard work paid off and he was medically cleared to deploy. During his six months at the Transit Center he maintained his discipline. He is now 32 pounds lighter and recently scored a 97.9 percent on his physical fitness test.

"Going to the gym helps me get over the stresses I deal with daily," Espiritu said. "It feels good waking up in the morning. I'm 30 years old and although I'm not at 100 percent, I feel like I'm in the best shape of my life."

Espiritu isn't the only one who noticed his changed appearance.

"When I was going through a security gate, one of the security force members checked my ID card and gave me a puzzled look," Espiritu said. "He looked over to me a couple of times and asked for the last four of my social security number. I jokingly replied and offered a second form of identification. He declined, but insisted I get my ID changed because the photo did not match what I look like now. I took it as a compliment."

As Espiritu has transformed himself, he has become a role model for others at the Transit Center hoping to do the same thing.

"I have friends who seek advice from me," he said. "I help them work out and pass their PT test. They like how they feel and they can see the results. They even take photos of themselves (to send home) to say, "Hey honey, this is how I look now.'"

When Espiritu returns home later this month, his fitness journey will not end.

"The hardest part of living is life itself," Espiritu said. "The sky is the limit. I'm proud of my accomplishments, there is nowhere to go but up, so I'm going to try to keep improving myself."

Below is a sample of one of Espiritu's weekly workout routines:

Monday: Upper body-bicep and tricep workouts
- Bicep curls with 35-40 pounds (10 repetitions with 3-5 sets)
- Incline diamond push-ups (20 repetitions with 3-5 sets)
- Chin ups (10 repetitions with 3-5 sets)
- Tricep pull-down with increasing weights (5 repetitions until exhaustion)
- Skull crushers with 35-40 pounds (10 repetitions with 3-5 sets)
- Dips (10 repetitions with 3-5 sets)
- Wide grip pull-ups (10 repetitions 3-5 sets)

Tuesday: Circuit training (each workout done for 1 minute, rest for 30 seconds, repeat three times)
- Jumping jacks
- Mountain climbers
- Burpees
- High knees
- Squat jumps
- Flutter kicks
- Suicides
- Planks
- Incline push-ups
- Jump rope

Wednesday: Boxing
- Shadow boxing with resistance bands for 10 minutes.
- Shadow boxing with free weights (5-10 pounds) for 10 minutes.
- Jump rope for 5 minutes.
- Hit the bag for 5 minutes.
- Spar with boxing mats and gloves with a partner for 10 minutes.
- Run for 20 minutes.

Thursday: Abs and back
- Medicine ball sit-ups (50 repetitions with 3 sets)
- Leg lifts (15 repetitions with 3-5 sets and hold last repetition until exhaustion)
- Romanian twists (3 sets of 1 minute)
- Incline sit ups (50 repetitions with 3 sets)
- Plank (3 sets of 1 minute)
- Side plank (3 sets of 1 minute)
- Lat pull-down with increasing weights (10 repetitions with 3 sets)
- Seated close grip row with increasing weights (10 repetitions with 3-5 sets)
- Close grip pull-ups (10 sets with 3-5 repetitions)

Friday: Legs and shoulders
- Leg press with increasing weights (10 repetitions with 3-5 sets)
- Leg curls with increasing weights (10 repetitions with 3-5 sets)
- Leg extensions with increasing weights (10 repetitions with 3-5 sets)
- Step-ups with 20-25 pounds free weights (10 repetitions with 3-5 sets)
- Shoulder press with 35-40 pounds free weights (10 repetitions with 3-5 sets)
- Arm raise with 15-20 pounds free weights (10 repetitions with 3 sets)
- Side arm raise with 15-20 pounds free weights (10 repetitions with 3 sets)
- Calf raises with increasing weights (10 repetitions with 3-5 sets)
- Barbell behind the neck press with 50-60 pounds. (10 repetitions with sets)
- Barbell military press with 50-60 pounds. (10 repetitions with 3 sets)

Saturday: Run a 5k

Sunday: Rest day