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Staff Sgt. Richard A. Gonzalez, team chief, holds the punching pads as Cpl. Brendan A. Ryan, a civil affairs Marine, practices punching during a sandstorm in Hit, Iraq, May 6. Both Marines are assigned to Civil Affairs Team 3, Detachment 1, 2nd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 5. Some of the Marines with CA Team 3 are using their deployment as a way to get into the best shape they can and are posting photographs of their improvements on a Web site so their families can see their progress.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Paul Torres

Marines stay fit in Hit

9 May 2008 | Lance Cpl. Paul Torres

Marines with Civil Affairs Team 3, Detachment 1, 2nd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 5 have figured out a way to motivate themselves to stay in shape.

When they deployed here in January, their staff sergeant decided to set up a Web site where the friends and family of the Marines could check on their progress during their year long deployment.

"I didn't know that much about Web sites, so I asked my brother, who designs Web pages for a living, to build us a site that we could update with video and photos of the Marines working out,” said Staff Sgt. Richard A. Gonzalez, 26, from Orange, Calif., who is the team chief for CA Team 3. “What I plan on doing is to film us as we progress through our deployment to see who improved.”

The Web site focuses on how the Marines are spending their off time and steers clear of any information about the missions to avoid sensitive information. Pictures and movies show the Marines as they do different exercises from ring pushup to box jumps.

When the CA team realized they were lacking equipment to do some of the workouts, they got creative and built their own small gym to facilitate their workout plans.

“We got a basketball and some (shoe glue) in the mail to make a medicine ball,” said Gonzales.

They even had a Marine build a set of pull-up bars.

"I have some background in construction, so all I needed was the wood and the time to build it," said Lance Cpl. Kevin R. Bauer, 23, from Richmond, Va., who is a motor transport mechanic and civil affairs Marine with CA Team 3. "I started the project over the weekend, and with the help of several other Marines, we finished in about three days."

With a makeshift gym and several other options available, many of the Marines began to fashion their own workouts to help them achieve their personal goals.

“The Marines maintain their fitness by combining some of the exercises with running, boxing or lifting weights, but we weigh everyone periodically to make sure they aren’t gaining weight or even losing weight too fast,” said Sgt. Robert M. Ainley, 30, from Camp Pendleton, Calif., who is a civil affairs noncommissioned officer with CA Team 3. “We have some Marines who have made a lot of improvement and we even got our corpsman to go from five pull-ups to fourteen.”

By taking their fitness seriously, many of the Marines have made significant improvements.

“When we first got here, I set a goal to get under my max weight and to be able to run a first class (physical fitness test),” said Lance Cpl.

Mathieu C. Mathet, 22, from Glendale Calif., who is a civil affairs Marine with CA Team 3. “Now I am under my weight limit, and I am confident I could run a first class PFT.”

Staying physically fit has become a challenge in Iraq as operation tempo has slowed.

“There was an article about military personnel coming back from deploying to Iraq overweight and out of shape,” said Gonzales.  “We really took that to heart and made a goal to come home in better shape than we left.”


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