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Phillipsburg native who lost more than 100 pounds before attending Officer Candidate School becomes Naval Officer

NEWPORT, RI – A native of Phillipsburg and recent student at Officer Training Command in Newport, Rhode Island, (OTCN), started an independent weight loss journey months before Officer Candidate School (OCS) even began in order to qualify for selection.

Ensign Michelle Buchanan, who graduated OCS on Dec. 18, spent the last 12 months training and dieting to qualify for OCS. Before arriving to OCS, Buchanan lost more than 100 pounds.

“I knew my weight was a problem, but I wasn’t really taking big steps to make a change,” Buchanan said.

Before she made the decision to join the Navy, she was looking to start a career in law enforcement, but was unable to leave her current security job.

“My grandmother actually suggested when I started the security job and I wasn’t getting into law enforcement to look at the military, and so I started my research and I decided I’m going to lose all this weight and I’m going to join the Navy,” Buchanan said.

Once Buchanan made the decision, she immediately made several lifestyle changes.

“The next day, I stopped eating the garbage that I used to eat and I started eating healthier,” Buchanan said. “I started to exercise at home, joined a high intensity interval training (HIIT) program and kept pushing myself. …eventually I was able to start running 5Ks by myself without struggling.”

Buchanan credits her motivation primarily to her desire to join the Navy, but there was another element pushing her to reach her goal.

“It was also for my own overall health,” Buchanan said. “Being 280 pounds is not good on your joints, obviously, and you find yourself winded just going up a flight of stairs. I wanted to reach my goal of joining the Navy but it’s also for my own well-being.”

Buchanan attributes her success to friends and family who encouraged and supported her.

“I’m lucky I have a very supportive family and a very good network of people who were supportive of my decision, not only to join the military, but to try and take on that big task of losing all that weight,” Buchanan said. “I’ve been blessed with having that really good support structure from the very beginning.”Buchanan reached her weight loss goal because of dedication.

“Don’t ever think that you can’t do something,” Buchanan said. “Nothing is going to be handed to you, put your mind to it and put in the work.”

Chief Boatswain’s Mate Gary McCoy, command fitness leader for Officer Training Command in Newport, Rhode Island, said it is common for otherwise qualified officer candidates to struggle in the beginning of their fitness program because of a lack of physical training preparation.

“The physical training at OTCN is high intensity,” McCoy said. “If you come to the program unprepared, you will struggle. The high-risk training evolutions can be dangerous for an unhealthy person. We ensure all candidates conduct proper exercises and stretches, while receiving the proper nutrition.”

OTCN morally, mentally and physically develops future leaders of character and competence – imbuing them with the highest ideals of honor, courage and commitment in order to serve as professional Naval officers worthy of special trust and confidence.

Jay Edwards

Born and raised in Northwest NJ, Jay has a degree in Communications and has had a life-long interest in local radio and various styles of music. Jay has held numerous jobs over the years such as stunt car driver, bartender, voice-over artist, traffic reporter (award winning), NY Yankee maintenance crewmember and peanut farm worker. His hobbies include mountain climbing, snowmobiling, cooking, performing stand-up comedy and he is an avid squirrel watcher. Jay has been a guest on America’s Morning Headquarters,program on The Weather Channel, and was interviewed by Sam Champion.

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