3/4 Marines use initiative to maintain standards
2nd Marine Division
Story by Lance Cpl. Paul Robbins Jr.

FALLUJAH, Iraq (July 15, 2005) -- The combination of 110-degree heat and carrying nearly 50 pounds of body armor keeps the Marines huffing down the streets of Fallujah. That’s why they need to be in the best physical condition possible.

Although the Marine Corps prepares Marines for these situations with conditioning programs in the States, the need to maintain a certain level of fitness while deployed, according to Gunnery Sgt. Conrad Washington, the 37-year-old administration chief for 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment.

“It’s important to maintain the standards while deployed so Marines can deal with the rigors of combat,” said Washington, a native of Chicago, “If Marines are not physically fit they cannot perform on the level expected of them.”

Without the million-dollar gyms or the open space for running, the Marines find their options limited. Running is restricted to the inner perimeter of bases and weights are hard to come by.

“When we first got here we were using makeshift pipe and cement weights,” said Cpl Miles J. Hill, a 22-year-old squad leader for Company I.

In response to the lack of facilities, the Marines began to look to the city. After noticing a few unused gyms inside Fallujah, the Marines saw their chance to improve their own.

“We found a gym in town willing to sell us some real weights,” said Hill, a native of Pauls Valley, Okla, “So, we pooled our money and bought some.”

After collecting the weights, the Marines set up small gyms at forward operating bases and entry control points throughout the battalion’s area of operation.

The proximity of the new gyms and improvements in the quality of equipment led to an increase in physical fitness activity in the companies, according to Lance Cpl. Alex G. Pak, a team leader with Company I.

“Everybody comes in at different times,” said Pak, a native of Bellbrook, Ohio, “If you can get an hour or hour and a half of downtime, instead of napping, you come lift.”

Despite their exhaustive schedule of patrols, guard posts and other daily security activities, the Marines push themselves even harder in the few hours they get to themselves.

“It’s an example of their high level of commitment to maintain the standards of the Marine Corps,” Washington said.

In the few months that the Marines have had the facilities, marked improvements were noticed amongst those visiting the gym.

“I’ve seen some confidence boosts, weight lost and weight gained,” Hill said, “Some of these guys are in the best shape of their lives.”

Although happy with the personal improvements each of them has made, the Marines have not lost sight of their gym’s true purpose; keeping fit for combat.

“It keeps us ready,” Hill said, “You have to keep training. Our improvements here are helping to keep our tactical proficiency high.”