Saturday, March 10, 2007

Hitting the Gym

Many soldiers make a habit of working out at the gym. At Camp Ramadi, we have three gyms. The larger, nicer one is on the other side of the camp, and about a mile away. Walking for a mile on roads covered with pot holes is not good for SGT Tremain's ankle, and we have a pretty busy schedule, so we go to the smaller one close by. Just as it was during OIF III with SGT Lee, working out is very therapeutic. Our routine: Day 1: chest & triceps. Day 2: back & biceps. Day 3: shoulders. Then we repeat the routine, and rest on Saturdays (the day I cut hair). The picture here is of Staff Sergeant Pates, posing under the entrance of COP Iron. The voice caption from Arnold reads: "SSG Pates, you pump me up!" I imagine the joke is lost on anyone unfamiliar with his personality. Even the COPs have little make-shift gyms. Some of the more essential dumb bells in our gym have been stolen for use at the COPs.

Working out helps us burn off stress, increase our energy, keep us healthy, and helps us feel better about ourselves. A good deal of what goes on in the gym is inspired by vanity, and I'm not so foolish to think I'm immune. As healthy as it is, it sometimes saddens me to think that some of our soldiers meet their deaths, who would have done well to devote half the time and energy to spiritual matters that they have to those matters physical. SGT Tremain (pictured here) is proud of his shoulders. I'm just proud that at 36, I can bench my weight. A lot of guys, myself included, work harder hoping to impress our wives when we return home.
Funny things happen at the gym. Some guys apparently believe that the louder they grunt, the more weight they will push. This, of course, is silly. I think it's funny, but both SGT Lee (my previous assistant) and SGT Tremain are intensely irritated by it. Sometimes the grunts and howls sound pretty desperate, as if the guy is giving birth or something.
A couple of weeks ago, someone brought in a box of small foam brains and hearts, donated by a health clinic. I guess the idea is to squeeze them for stress relief. They disappeared quickly. A few days later I found one of the brains on a workout bench, with something a Soldier had written on it in an effort to make a joke at the Marines' expense (pictured here). The irony of the Soldier's failed effort is something I won't forget, and I thought y'all would get a kick out of it. For the most part, Soldiers, Marines, Sailors, and Airmen (all here at Campa Ramadi--although the Marines command the area of western Iraq) get along surprisingly well. However, one has to look no further than the insults written on latrine walls to be reminded that a healthy--albeit juvenile--competition remains between the services. From my observation, there are very few meaningful differences between us that remain; this was not the case for my Father, who served with the Marines in Vietnam.
I appreciate the letters and care packages Dawn and the boys have sent. This week, Dawn sent me peanut butter (the world's best food), raspberry jam, and a candle. The candle was pumpkin spice scented; this excerpt from her letter explains it as a substitution:
"I was feeling incredibly complete! [She had just baked me six loaves of chocolate chip pumpkin bread--never had it, but it sounds delicious.] This morning I was bundling up your package of homemade love when a loaf broke as I handled it. So I tasted it. Much to my complete horror the recipe was wrong. They had used tbsp<-->tsp for the baking soda. It tasted like Tylenol. I will do it again, just not tonight! Thought you'd like my disaster story."


Anonymous said...

That is funny: I knew Marine's had brains but I had never seen one...

This is a joke, Marines, a joke!!!!

Anonymous said...

Sorry but grunting Does make you lift more weight. I asked a PhD in Anatomy. So, while annoying, they are right.