Luis Enrique Pinto Jr., 18, lost 113 pounds over a seven-month period in order to meet the branch's weight requirement, dropping from 317 pounds to 204.
"That's a human -- he lost the equivalent of a human in seven months," said his recruiter, Staff Sgt. Philip Long.
Pinto, who was born in Oakland, Calif., and was raised in Peru and later Las Vegas, decided to join the military after high school because he wanted to become the first member of his family to serve, he recently told the Army.
"You've got one life. I don't want to wake up and do the same thing every single day. There's a whole world out there,” he said.
So Pinto, who has worked as an electrician at construction sites, committed to cleaning up his diet and started hitting the gym.
Pinto is 6-foot-1. For someone his age and height looking to enlist, the Army has set a maximum weight of 205 pounds.
While his recruiter was skeptical of Pinto’s goal at first, he supported him.
“They never put the effort into it," Long said of potential recruits. "They never actually care enough and they don't go anywhere. And then you turn around and you got someone like Luis."
The former high school football offensive lineman was eager to be part of a new team and bring that disciplined gridiron mentality to the military.
"I transferred that same mentality over to life after high school,” he said.
In order to sign enlistment papers, a candidate must be in good health. When requirements are met, a recruiter can move forward with the process. Once enlisted, recruits spend their first 10 weeks in Basic Combat Training, or “boot camp,” where their physical limits will be tested.
Pinto said he started doing cardio and high-intensity interval training (HIIT).
"Running wasn't my strong suit," he said. "Carrying all that extra weight and trying to run definitely increased my time."
Now Pinto can run a mile in six and a half minutes, which he says is about half what his time was earlier this year.
When the training got tough and it was hard to find inspiration, Pinto’s mom was there with words of encouragement, he said.
"One thing she told me is to just show up. Just show up and don't worry about the workout that's to come. You show up at the gym and once you're there, you're already there, so might as well just get it over with,” he said.
His efforts paid off, and Pinto enlisted at the rank of 14E, a Patriot Fire Control enhanced operator/maintainer. The Patriot weapons system is one of the most advanced missile systems in the world, the Army said.
As for the Occupational Physical Assessment Test (OPAT), administered to new recruits, Long said Pinto passed with flying colors. The OPAT measures muscular strength and endurance, cardio, explosive power and speed. There are four components: the standing long jump, the seated power throw, the deadlift and an interval aerobic run.
"Every event was like it was made for him; it was easy," Long said.
Pinto is expected to report to basic training in September.
His next goal is to hit 190 pounds, he said.
"Hitting my goal weight definitely isn't my end goal. There's still way more to come. I still want to get better," he pointed out.
But there has been room to reflect on his incredible progress.
"I pretty much use my old shirts for blankets at this point," Pinto said.