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Airman rededicates life to service after 22 years

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Shen-Chia McHone
  • 445th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Senior Airman Roy VonAlmen, 445th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, may look like a typical medical logistics journeyman, but he's far from average - that's because VonAlmen first enlisted 26 years ago.

He recently rejoined the U.S. Air Force as a Reservist at age 44. The journey to becoming an Airman wasn't easy, but one could say that VonAlmen has learned the meaning of what President Theodore Roosevelt once said, "Nothing worth gaining is ever gained without effort."

VonAlmen reminisced how the Air Force culture had changed over the years. He was an 18-year-old straight out of high school when he signed over his life to serve in the military.

"During that time, America was fighting against communism, not terrorism," he said.

Airmen would shine boots and iron uniforms which they called "green fatigues," and used typewriters rather than computers. Attention to detail was the primary focus instead of physical fitness. There was very minimum physical training and there was no PT test or uniforms to wear during basic training.

"I picked up the bad habit of smoking when I went to basic training and technical school because it was the acceptable culture back then," said VonAlmen. "It wasn't uncommon to see training instructors smoking and there were ashtrays everywhere, even in my first sergeant's office."

VonAlmen became a chain smoker for the next 22 years after he was honorably discharged. When he signed up for his call of duty, he weighed 145 pounds. As time went on and he lived a sedentary lifestyle, he gained weight up to 274 pounds.

"No other job I had required me to maintain my fitness or a certain weight," said VonAlmen. "I would eat pizza and fast food every day, making it a Super-size or Biggie-size, as well as eating late at night."

Although his metabolism slowed down making it harder for him to lose weight, VonAlmen said he realized how much he missed the Air Force so he did whatever it took to be able to re-join.

"Meeting the qualifications to be in the Air Force again was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do because it was a tough process, but I felt driven and knew what I had to do to maintain my fitness," said VonAlmen.

It wasn't a simple task when he made the decision to join the Reserves in 2011. He became self-motivated and began to diet and exercise.
First, VonAlmen decided to quit smoking altogether, which meant cutting out the pack of cigarettes a day from his daily routine. Then, he put on his running shoes and went to the gym six days a week.

"I've tried spinning classes, a fitness trainer, DVD work outs, interval training, and biking," he said. "I'm coming back into a whole new kind of Air Force where being fit and healthy is a new requirement, so I switched up my routines and took it one day at a time."

Eight months into his new workout schedule, VonAlmen took on the challenge of a Warrior Dash event. Participants running in the three-mile obstacle course had to crawl through a mud pit under barb wire, climb a wall, crawl through tunnels, and jump through a fire pit.

"It was my first real test to see how conditioned my body was and I had a lot of fun," he said.

After a lot of hard work, dedication, perseverance and support from loved ones, VonAlmen successfully lost 78 pounds and was able to meet Air Force standards.

"At my age, I'm in the best shape of my life for an average 44 year old," said VonAlmen. My fiancé has been very supportive of my diets, working out with me, and giving me confidence and that extra push to keep going."

The Airman didn't stop there. After he met his goals, he challenged his body to train for his first marathon this year.

Although running is not his favorite sport, he completed the U.S. Air Force Marathon here and he has a sunburned tattoo of his squadron to prove it.

"I wrote '445 AES' with a black marker on my arm before the race and when I washed it off, my sun burnt arms still proudly displayed the letters," he said. "I'm glad I feel healthier and have a lot more energy, and I'm able to serve in the Air Force once again."