ABOARD USS CARTER-HALL -- Since 1775, United States Marines have repeatedly earned a reputation for adapting to tough situations and overcoming obstacles. The Marines and sailors of the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) deployed aboard USS Carter-Hall prove this daily. Marines like Sgt. Tyrone E. Reid adapt to a lack of space and equipment and create motivation to get in combat-ready shape for the next mission.
Sergeant Reid, of Queens, N.Y., explained the situation, “There’s a lot of down-time on ship. Some Marines use this time to relax, and others exercise.”
The MEU, which is poised to respond to crises throughout the Central Command area of responsible, is also capable of conducting several types of operations including maritime anti-piracy operations, embassy reinforcement and non-combatant evacuation operations.
“Besides looking good, MEU Marines need to stay in shape because we’re trained to do so much,” said Reid. “Successful Marines show the initiative to work out,” he continued, “motivation is all they need.”
According to Lance Cpl. Frederico Mincey, being enclosed within the steel-walled maze of a Naval warship comes loaded with several challenges. The gym is small and overcrowded, running is difficult at best, and following the recent deployment to Iraq, many Marines want to go home. But, like the Marines before him, Mincey adapts to continue his mission.
“To avoid the crowds, I hit the gym at 4 o’clock in the morning,” said the motor transportation operator from Swainsboro, Georgia. “Sometimes I might only see two other guys in there. If the treadmills aren’t available, I go outside and run. If there isn’t a bench available, I do push ups. Here, you just have to do whatever’s necessary.”
Marines aboard the Carter-Hall take dedication to another level. They fill the gym, circle the flight deck, and sweat with militant diligence to maintain physical readiness. Some go to the gym at odd times, and others like Lance Cpl. Dan J. Drewek, another motor transport operator, take a different approach to staying in shape.
“Working out in groups is key,” said the Milwaukee, Wis., native. “Having three or four guys doing sets on a single piece of equipment leaves more equipment for everyone,” he said. “Loud music also drowns out the frustration of everyone being in your way,” he added.
The synergy of loud music and encouraging words has helped Drewek obtain solid gains, he said. Working out in a group also provided him the benefit of shared motivation.
“It’s motivating when friends are pushing you to lift more,” he said. “Competition makes you challenge yourself to do more. When I have a spotter and people pushing me, the weight isn’t as heavy.”
Even the best-laid workout plans can be sabotaged by improper nutrition, said Staff Sgt. Lamel H. Jones, of Queens, N.Y. He coaches Marines on diet and knows that eating nutritiously aboard ship is difficult.
“Honestly, it’s hard to eat well on ship,” he said. “If you don’t eat the fried foods, there isn’t much left. You have to make due with what you’ve got. I try to eat eggs in the morning, anything green and crispy, and supplement my diet with protein shakes.”
While Mincey, Drewek, and Jones hit the gym with their buddies, Cpl. Heather R. Goad buzzes across the flight deck doing sets of calisthenics with her friends. She said that when there isn’t much space to exercise, she tries to make physical training as interesting as possible.
“When you make PT fun, you don’t mind it as much,” she said, “and you just feel better when you exercise.”
Aside from trying to make her daily exercise regimen contain as much fun as possible by including sprints, jumps, and games, the Richmond, Virginia, native said she also understands her duty to stay in shape.
“I know that eventually we’ll have another Physical Fitness Test, and it could influence my promotion,” said Goad. “Love it or hate it, if you’re a Marine, you have to stay in shape.”
For more information on the 22nd MEU (SOC) and their deployment, visit their web site: www.22meu.usmc.mil.