ELLSWORTH — For Hancock resident Casey Slater, the decision to enlist in the military may have been an easy one.
“I come from a family with a strong military background,” Slater explained when asked about his motivations, “and I just wanted to keep that lineage alive.”
The challenge, however, would be to keep himself alive during basic training, a time when recruits are put to the test both mentally and physically. As a 28-year-old who struggled to get through even a half-hour workout, Slater needed some help to prepare his body for the rigors ahead. He turned to the Down East Family YMCA in November of last year in the hopes that they could get him on the right track in a very short timeframe.
“I remember being unsure I could get him to where he needed to be physically in the short amount of time I had,” said Robin Clarke, the director of the fitness department who took charge of Slater’s training. “We trained three days a week with help from two other trainers, Rebecca Bailey and Meagan Haney. I even called in Jim Goodman from our aquatics department, who has a military background, to help with the swim requirements.”
“I had a good team to help me out,” said Slater. “They helped me push through it and helped me get prepared.”
The team worked hard for three months before Slater left for boot camp. And now, almost three months later, he returned to the YMCA where his journey began to celebrate his graduation from Navy boot camp.
On hand to help Slater mark the occasion were members of the Y’s cardiac rehab class, who had been following his progress, and members of the team who trained him. Clarke provided a table full of all the things she told Slater he wasn’t allowed to eat while he was getting in shape. There was ice cream cake, Doritos, mini muffins, even some Mountain Dew.
“Just this once, though,” Clarke joked with Slater about the delicious spread. “Only today can you have all of this because we’re celebrating.”
Clarke and fellow trainer Rebecca Bailey were extremely pleased with Slater’s progress. The team at the YMCA has helped, and is continuing to help, people training for fitness tests at various law enforcement agencies.
“We have a forest ranger who is working with us right now, but we’ve also helped people get ready for the police academy in the past,” said Clarke. “We know the benchmarks they’re going to need to hit, and we know how to get them there.”
The next stop for Slater is San Diego, where he will continue his naval training. But he couldn’t leave without getting in a workout, so Clarke started him off with some planks to help strengthen his core.
The workouts have become something that Slater enjoys, which is a definite shift from where he began all those weeks ago.