Staff SGT Donald Wayne West, Jr., enlisted in the United States Army National Guard on September 11, 2001. As part of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Company A of the 150th Combat Engineers served active duty Aug 29, 2004, until Dec 30, 2005. SSGT West returned to college in January, 2006. He married Lauren Ritchie June 9, 2006, at Seaside, Fla., and they have three children. SSGT West completed military service at Camp Minden, LA on Aug 23, 2009.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Day 183 - Soldier Breakfast: Toast and Gym

Listening to Wayne’s telephone account and reading Kevin Kelly’s description of their grueling 15-hour mission Tuesday helped me understand why physical training is such a priority.

Several months ago, Wayne joined a group of soldiers to begin their own version of Extreme Makeover. The men started their regimen with no gym and no weightlifting equipment, improvising with only Humvee parts and sandbags.

Every two weeks, the guys have taken front, side and back-view pictures to record their progress. I have sworn not to post the photos on the blog, but some enterprising vitamin or bulk-building supplement company should have all the ad materials they need when this group of hunks gets back home!

Thanks to lots of letters and plenty of begging, the soldiers finally got a fully equipped weight room built on base. Last I heard, SGT Patrick Bacon has lost 50 pounds, and the rest of the crew has made similar progress.

To hear some people talk, you’d think taxpayers are funding fancy fitness clubs in Iraq. Not exactly.

Yesterday, blogger BlackFive posted an email from a Corporal in the US Army Cavalry stationed in Iraq. Responding to some weenie’s question why physical training is so important in the military, blogger Deuce Gunner answers, “Lack of discipline and exercise costs lives, plain and simple.”

“Fighting the kind of war we are fighting requires that we be disciplined and ensure we are ready to destroy the enemy, wherever he is, however he chooses to engage us, in a sometimes VERY monotonous setting.”

The Corporal also describes the physical conditioning necessary to function effectively when it’s ‘133F outside (and you’re) wearing long pants, long sleeves and a 4lb helmet, carrying a 7lb rifle in your hands, a 3lb pistol strapped to your leg, a 5 lb shotgun strapped to your back, and 70lbs (of ammo and gear) on your back and chest. (More…)

”As a leader, I keep my men disciplined and physically fit for their own good,” he concludes. “ If they are not (fit), they put their lives and my life in jeopardy, and the life of every soldier in their battlespace (at risk). I ride them hard, but they understand the importance. They know that anything else is just plain not acceptable.”

Thinks about that next time you’re deciding whether to skip your next workout.