PHOENIX, Ariz. — Jaimie Rodriguez always knew she wanted to serve in the military.
“In like elementary, middle school, then going to high school, I would see military and I thought they were so amazing. I felt like that was going to be me one day,” Rodriguez said.
It was that admiration that led her to a recruitment office in Phoenix.
Inside, she would have a heart-to-heart conversation about how to achieve her dream.
“She was already like this is what I want to do and I said, 'OK,'” Army Recruiter Sgt 1st Class Vincent Sotello said.
Sotello explained the benefits of military service, and what to expect. He also informed Rodriguez that she needed to lose weight to meet the military's requirements.
At the time, the high schooler was 210 pounds. She would need to get down to 168 pounds.
“He’s like, 'Yeah, you need to lose weight. These are all the things about the Army you should know, so I’ll pick you up tomorrow. Let's go run, let's start,' and that day I’m like, 'He’s not serious,'” Rodriguez said.
“You have to have that determination. I used to always preach Army values to her, never quit, never accept defeat,” said Sotello.
Every single morning before school Sotello, and the high school senior would run up North Mountain together just as the sun began to rise.
“We started off lightly, and I told her, as long as you're committed and continue on, I’m going to keep pushing you and eventually we’re gonna get from the bottom to the top of the mountain,” said Sotello.
“It was like four in the morning every day. I set multiple alarms to make sure I got up,” said Rodriguez. “I would run in the morning. Work out at the gym in the evening and jump rope in my room before bed.”
For months, Jaimie transformed her diet and dedicated to an intense workout routine. She tracked her progress with weekly weigh-ins.
“He believed in me. It felt like— more than anybody he believed in me,” said Rodriguez.
Rodriguez got down to 163 pounds and enlisted in the Army.
She’s finished basic training and says she is in the best shape of her life. Rodriguez is now a Private 2nd Class in the Army.
This story was originally reported by Cameron Polom on abc15.com.