21-stone Epsom recruit named best infrantryman
A 27-year-old man who weighed in at more than 21 stone when joining up has been named the best infantryman in the country.
Rifleman Adam O’Neill, from London Road, Epsom, won the title after losing nearly seven stone and excelling on the combat infantryman’s course at the Infantry Training Centre in Catterick, North Yorkshire.
He received the award at a passing-out parade ceremony last month.
Rfn O’Neill quit his job at Wimbledon dog track and worked at Waitrose in Epsom while he embarked on a gruelling exercise routine to lose weight and get fit so he could join the army.
He said: "I weighed 21 and a half stone and I couldn’t even run on the treadmill for five minutes so I decided to get myself into gear and started going for runs and joined my local gym.
"I’m a bit older than other lads who join the army and I was at that stage where I wanted to do something worthwhile and join the army and knew this was the time to go for it.
"It took 18 months to get down to 15 stone, but I really got into getting fit and I was determined to pass the selection."
He said the mammoth weight loss campaign helped instill discipline in him ready for his duties and enabled him to excel.
"It was awesome to get the award because it doesn’t usually go to people my age," he said.
"But I enjoyed everything about my training. It was difficult at first as I was older and at loggerheads with the younger ones as I was much more mature than them, but I loved everything I was doing.
"I was always learning something and developing and the training staff and corporals were inspirational."
His platoon commander at Catterick, Captain Adam Morley, said: "For someone his age to maintain the levels of effort and enthusiasm for the whole six-month course is a real achievement.
"He hasn’t taken his foot off the gas since he walked through the doors of the Infantry Training Centre - he thoroughly deserves this recognition."
Rfn O’Neill is joining 3rd Battalion The Rifles, which is based in Edinburgh, and will shortly be deployed to Afghanistan on active service.
As a new recruit, he will be given more time than usual before flying out and will be trained on how to operate in the country when he arrives at Camp Bastion at the start of the four-month tour.
He said: "I feel proud to be able to go out to Afghanistan and do the job I’ve been trained to do. I can’t wait to go.
"I think a lot of people don’t realise the bigger picture in Afghanistan and the reasons we’re out there.
"They think we’re interfering in another country, but we are there to stop the Taliban and are trying to make Afghanistan more stable because if we don’t, this will have an effect on England."