CAMP HABBANIYAH, Iraq -- Marines of 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment are calling, tough guy. Step into their “House of Pain.”
Marines here opened a combat conditioning gymnasium for their unit in a ribbon-cutting ceremony Aug. 12. It’s a gym built in a refurbished British barracks. Make no mistake, though. There’s nothing refined about the place. It’s a gym of cold steel, ringing iron, sweat, blood and tears. It’s perfect for Marines.
“It’s called the ‘House of Pain’ because when you come here you feel the pain,” said Staff Sgt. Oscar X. Gomez, supply chief with the battalion. He headed up the project to build the workout center.
The 28-year-old from Queens, N.Y., said in order to improve physically, Marines must overcome physical obstacles.
Here, Marines use the gym’s weight area, cardio area or the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program area. There’s one common theme throughout the whole gym: This will hurt.
Gomez said he first thought of the gym back when he served as a drill instructor and used spare time for his recruits’ physical training sessions.
“When I was a DI, I had the idea of a ‘House of Pain,’” Gomez said. “I use to make recruits do exercises on different things in the squad bay to improve their PT.”
Gomez said recruits would do exercises on footlockers, racks or anything they had.
Now, with a little bit of help from the battalion’s command, he’s built a shrine to physical improvement for Marines in a combat zone. Weight benches, machines of nearly every physical description and even an open area for hand-to-hand sparring await anyone willing to spend time and sweat for physical strength.
“I want to help the Marines accomplish their goals,” Gomez said. “I remember when I first started working out in the gym, I didn’t know what to do. I want to help out Marines in the same situation.”
Gomez said he wanted to assist Marines and sailors get bigger, lose weight or just stay in shape. It’s important to him because Marines must pull their own weight in combat. It requires strength, stamina and agility – all attributes that can be earned in the House of Pain.
“It might come a time when you might have to carry your fellow Marines if something were to happen to them,” Gomez said “If you can carry your own weight than you can carry someone else’s.”
It’s not just Marines who are taking advantage of the new gym. The battalion’s hospital corpsmen are right alongside their Marine brothers, jacking steel with the best of them.
“A corpsman should be strong,” said Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Leonardo E. Benitez, who can be seen pumping iron at the “House of Pain” on a daily basis.
The 36-year-old hospital corpsman from Bronx, N.Y., said strength is important because he and others must lift up a Marine in battle.
Just building the House of Pain was a feat of strength and endurance.
Gomez worked with about a dozen Marines for an average of 13-hours-a-day for a week. They did it on top of their regular duties.
His Marines were just glad the gym is done.
“It feels good because when you look around this place you see what you did,” said Pfc. Josh M. Hodges, a 19-year-old supply administrative clerk from Manhattan Beach, Calif. “I built that frame, that cable-cross machine, put those mats down and put that bike together.”
The gym is one-of-a-kind for a workout spot in Iraq.
“The setting makes me feel right at home,” explained Pfc. Jesse R. Keezer, a 19-year-old supply administration clerk from Delmar, N.Y. “The mats on the floor, the bikes, the radio, the T.V., everything.”
The gym is an opportunity for Marines to do something different. It allows the Marines a break from the routine of the day, offers goals and a way to relieve stress.
“This means we don’t have to run every day,” said Keezer, who wants to be more toned and in better overall shape like he was wrestling for his hometown high school. “I’m happy because I have a place of my own to work out.”
Ultimately, Gomez said the gym is for his warfighters.
“I know the gym makes my guys feel good so it makes me feel good,” Gomez said. “Hearing people say the gym is nice makes all the hard work worth while.”