A REDDITCH man has fulfilled his boyhood dream of joining the Army – at the ripe age of 46 after shedding more than five stone in weight.
Ashley Stone succeeded against would-be recruits decades younger than himself as he became the oldest recruit to be accepted as a reservist into the local Redditch-based regiment – the Royal Signals.
“It was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life – the training is the same as the regular Army – but I did it and I’m just so proud,” said the father of two from Winyates.
Ashley’s journey began when, aged 39 and unhappy with the way he looked, it was suggested he join the local Weight Watchers Club in Oakenshaw.
“Throughout adulthood I had always been overweight but as I got older my weight kept on increasing,” said Ashley a toolmaker with Mettis Aerospace.
“As the weight came off I felt more and more confident and I could start to do all the things I now enjoy, such as long-distance cycling.
“In fact it is now not uncommon for me to cycle from Redditch to North Wales on a Saturday morning.”
As the weight fall away Ashley plucked up the courage to apply and try to fulfil his lifetime’s ambition.
“My passion remained with the military and with the encouragement of family, friends, my wonderful coach Debbie Onions and other members of the Oakenshaw group, I applied to join the Army Reserves in Summer 2017,” Ashley told the Standard.
“With the loss of weight and my continued fitness I passed the basic training and became the oldest recruit to be accepted into my local regiment, beating many men much much younger than me.
“I have since had the chance to do combat training, go skiing with the Swiss Army and have many more opportunities within the armed forces.”
Now just 13st, Ashley still attends the Oakenshaw club although as a helper to assist other people who might have the same issues he had.
“The support and encouragement I got from my coach Debbie Onions and the members on a Monday evening literally changed my life and made a boyhood/adulthood dream become a reality.”
The club meets on Sundays at 10am and Mondays at 6pm at Oakenshaw Community Centre, Castleditch Lane and there are other sessions throughout Redditch.