Realizing a dream through dieting

Saturday, October 22, 2005

A Scott City patrolman lost 134 pounds so he could join the Army National Guard.

Wayne Hampton is preparing to move into a long-anticipated chapter of his life.

As patrolman with the Scott City Police Department, he works the midnight shift and doubles as a narcotics officer. Hampton is seasoned with 14 years in law enforcement, trained with the Missouri State Highway Patrol to break down meth labs and trained with the FBI for homicide investigations. In his two years with the Scott City Police Department, he has managed 25 search warrants for narcotics in the last 18 months.

However, one desire has never died since childhood.

"Through all of this, I've always wanted to be a soldier," Hampton said. On Sept. 28, the 35-year-old Chaffee, Mo., native became a private first class in the 2175th Military Police with the Army National Guard. He goes to basic training March 8.

Hampton had to overcome a lifelong obstacle to answer the call of duty.

"He's been a fat boy," said Hampton's best friend of 30 years, Scott City police chief Don Cobb.

Hampton said that he has never been self-concious about his weight.

From a maximum of 375 pounds one year ago, Hampton has shed 134 pounds so far. For his height of 5 feet, 7inches the Army National Guard requires a man to weigh no more than 179 pounds. Hampton joined at 242 pounds.

He was able to bypass the weight limit by entering an experimental program at a Military Entrance Processing Station in Chicago. They took into account his body fat percentage rather than his weight. When measured, Hampton had 26 percent fat, which is 2 percent less than the guard requires. He also passed the physical at 12 push-ups over the required amount and breathed easy during the aerobics exercise.

The journey of losing weight has had plateaus and roadblocks. He follows his wife's diabetic diet, which reduces the amount of sugar, carbohydrates and starches. He also uses a 24-hour pass at Classic Tan and Fitness in Chaffee, Mo.

When the going was good, Cobb and other officers hid Ho-Ho's in his mailbox just to see if he would throw them away. Instead, Hampton threw them back in Cobb's lap.

"Here's your Ho-Ho," Hampton said with his quiet sense of humor. It was tough enough to work past the potato diet that his mother raised him on, he said.

When the journey got tough, encouragement and advice poured in from co-workers and fellow guardsmen. Circuit Judge David Mann and Scott County Prosecuting Attorney Paul Boyd have offered continuous support, he said.

When he visted a MEPS in St. Louis over the summer, Hampton found some unexpected hurdles.

On his first visit, he learned that he had hearing loss due to his experience as a firearms instructor. With a waiver in hand, he visited twice only to discover that the military lost his paperwork. Then he visited the doctor twice, once to check on an old knee surgery and once for hearing loss. Though he was promised that papers would be signed on his last visit to St. Louis, he learned that his body mass index was too high. Six weeks later, he went to a MEPS in Chicago, where he realized that the St. Louis station had measured the size of his neck wrong. The correction finally allowed him to realize his dream.

As a military officer, he may assist in prisoner transport and provide security. His track record as an officer has prepared him well for the job, Cobb said.

Hampton's instincts routinely lead him to spot suspicious vehicles. When a truck pulls away from a farming supply store at 3 a.m., Hampton figures it's not shopping that the driver is up to. In most cases, he's right.

He knows when to watch individuals after asking them to leave town or a business. In one case, he found the woman hiding behind a truck across the street. Before she came out, he saw her pull a bag of cocaine out of her pocket and place it on the tailpipe.

He's not any better than anyone else, Hampton said. He just wants to give back to people in the same way that the law enforcement and military have protected him when he was a child.

"I tell people that anybody can be a flag waver, but I want to be a flag defender," Hampton said.

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