MIRABAD VALLEY, Afghanistan - A group of Australian Army soldiers are finding out they don't need fancy equipment or an expensive gym membership to get fit in the Afghan wilderness.

When the infantrymen of Combat Team B, 5th Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment, aren't eating, sleeping or patrolling through the mountains, they can be seen pumping iron in their very own bush gym.

Since they're constantly on the move, their gym only has the bare essentials - a bar, a few weights, some dumbbells, kettle bells and a bench constructed from a few ration boxes stacked on top of each other.

"Obviously there's not as much equipment as a real gym, so you've got to be versatile," said Australian Army Pvt. Thomas Deveson, infantryman for Combat Team B. "You've got to change things up a lot and do a lot of bodyweight exercises."

Deveson, an Edithvale, Victoria, native, said admittedly, the weights aren't that heavy, so it may not be possible to get big with their current set, but it provides them with a great opportunity to build muscular definition and look good.

Even though these are great benefits, the main goal of exercising while deployed is to stay fit for combat, said Australian Army Sgt. Mark Manousso, team sergeant for Combat Team B and former instructor at the Australian Army Recruit Training Center.

"Being fit is important to all of us, so we can continue to do the job that we're here to do," said Manousso, a Brisbane, Queensland, native. "In the event something happens and you need to carry a wounded soldier back to cover, you need to be physically fit."

A soldier's armor and gear can weigh him or her down by an additional 30 kg.

"The gear is protection," said Manousso. "You can't just take it off them, you've got to bring it with you."

In addition to building strength to save soldiers in combat, exercise also offers deployed soldiers another very important benefit.

Deveson, who exercises at least five days a week in the bush, said it provides a much needed distraction from battle.

"Going to the gym out here, it gives you that motivation," said Deveson. "It gives you something to look forward to. It's probably my favorite part of the day."

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16