Air Force recruiter lost nearly 200 pounds to join military

Technical Sergeant Leo C. Knight-Inglesby, enlisted accessions recruiter, United States Air Force, in his office in Williamsport. KAREN VIBERT-KENNEDY/Sun-Gazette

For 6-foot tall, 362-pound college freshman Leo Knight-Inglesby, a chance meeting with U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Ty Lopez in 2007 changed the course of his life.

That meeting led to him becoming Technical Sgt. Leo Knight-Inglesby, Williamsport’s newest U.S. Air Force recruiter.

Lopez, an Air Force recruiter, set up a little table at Montgomery College in Rockville, Maryland, and Knight-Inglesby, an automotive technology major, happened to walk by.

Knight-Inglesby doesn’t remember what exactly Lopez said that day, but it was along the lines of, “Hey, are you are tired of living in your parents’ basement?”

“It almost seemed like he was speaking directly to me. At the time, I was living in my dad’s basement and, at the time, I wasn’t enjoying school,” said Knight-Inglesby. “I just saw the Air Force banner draped over a table, he had seven or eight people around him. I was standing there listening and, of course, I’m the 360-pound guy in the back. I had never even considered that I would be in the military,” said Knight-Inglesby

A couple of days later, Knight-Inglesby walked into Lopez’s office and Lopez sat him down and talked to him.

“He said, ‘Alright, you know you have some weight to lose. If you are willing to put in the work, I am willing to help you,’ and he did, he did just that,” said Knight-Inglesby

Knight-Inglesby had a lot more to do to be able to join the Air Force than most people.

The first time he stepped on the scale at Lopez’s office in 2007, at 362 pounds, Lopez did a double-take, “He gave me a look like, are you sure you want to do this?” laughed Knight-Inglesby

“For me to join the Air Force, I had to get to 202 pounds,” meaning he had to lose at least 160 pounds to be able to enlist, he said.

Lopez gave him nutrition advice including cutting down on his sugar intake.

“The secret is to losing weight is to put out more than you put in and be careful what you do put in. My biggest vice was fast food, sugar, sweets chocolate and sodas. Stop drinking soda and watch what will happen,” shared Knight-Inglesby.

Within the first four months, he lost 70 pounds just from major lifestyle changes.

“So, at 362 pounds, you can’t really run, your knees can’t take that load. So I did a ton of work on the elliptical machine. I really got after it, I was at the gym twice a day,” said Knight-Inglesby

He was also taking two or three college classes and working a part time job.

All in all, it took him about 20 months to lose the 160 pounds.

“It was all natural. It wasn’t some fad diet I was on, it was just hard work,” said Knight-Inglesby

“Sgt. Lopez made me come in once a month and put me on a scale. He would document my weight. He would say, ‘Alright, you’re good, keep going,’ or ‘What happened this month? You gained a couple of pounds.’ There are struggles with losing weight — you hit plateaus, but then you work through that plateau and the weight falls off again,” said Knight-Inglesby.

After reaching his goal weight of 202 pounds in 2008, Knight-Inglesby was sent to Military Entrance Processing Station, where a doctor determines if a person is fit for duty or not, based off of their past and current medical information. They declared Knight-Inglesby fit for duty at .2 pounds under the maximum allowable weight.

At the conclusion of his physical, Knight-Inglesby took his oath of enlistment, where he was sworn into delayed enrollment in the U.S. Air Force.

Lopez continued to inspire Knight-Inglesby through a series of workouts to prepare for basic training, the same as Knight-Inglesby does with his future airmen these days.

“I had never done a plank in my life, I was like what is this you are doing to me right now?” laughed Knight-Inglesby

Lopez worked with Knight-Inglesby for three or four months until Knight left for basic military training, where his Air Force career officially began.

“He never let me fail. Regardless of the trials and tribulations that were put in front of me, he was there to make sure I got through them and overcame them and here we are 14 years later. I am an airman who has been selected to the promotion to master sergeant. Sgt. Lopez, he changed my life 100 percent. I can’t even imagine what I would be doing right now,” said Knight-Inglesby.

Today, Knight-Inglesby is the Air Force recruiter here in Williamsport.

“This is my calling. Humans have always been my passion — this is almost like a dream job for me. The Air Force gave me the keys to success. I have great leaders and mentors that have helped mold me,” he said, including Sgt. Lopez. “He’s still a great mentor of mine, I owe just about every accomplishment and every accolade to my former recruiter.”

During his time in Williamsport, Knight-Inglesby wants leave his mark on the youth of this area just like his recruiter did for him 14 years ago.

“I want to remind the youth of this community that no matter how difficult an obstacle may seem, with the right support system, anything is possible,” he said. “Regardless of whether the members of the community want to join our ranks, I want to be someone they can look up to for inspiration and mentorship if they ever need it.”


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