Diamonds are renowned for their distinct properties, namely their beauty, value, rarity, and toughness. Formed under a combination of heat and pressure, diamonds are one of the hardest substances known to man.
Similarly, a certain gym on Camp Buehring, Kuwait, known as The Diamond Mine, provides the 111th Theater Engineer Brigade Soldiers with the necessary conditions and opportunity to meet their physical potential. The Diamond Mine offers a variety of structured blocks of time dedicated to improving fitness and general wellbeing, as well as open gym hours daily.
Although many Soldiers visit the gym, they often do not realize that the 111th TEB Chaplain, Maj. David Johns is ultimately responsible for the operations.
“The Diamond Mine is different in many ways,” said Johns. “We have the benefit of keeping it in our community, but I believe the uniqueness comes in the feel of the place.”
The Diamond Mine Gym is rather unremarkable at initial inspection; it is smaller and houses older equipment compared to the other gyms on the post. It’s not polished or refined; the floors aren’t even level, but where The Diamond Mine truly shines is in its regulars and instructors.
Why do so many members of the 111th TEB enjoy the gym?
When asked about what sets The Diamond Mine apart from other gyms on base, Johns described how it is an old-school powerlifting gym with a very long CrossFit history.
“The walls speak to us - literally. From deep thoughts to casual one-liners, the walls are covered with decades of evidence of the work that has been put in at the gym,” Johns said. “It feels like a mine.”
Following the 5:30 a.m. to 6:30 a.m. interval training on Tuesdays and Thursdays, Johns ends the sessions with a devotion – appropriately named “Faith and Fitness.”
As is the case with actual diamonds being formed by extreme pressure and outside forces over a period, so are Soldiers that attend The Diamond Mine.
This is where instructors like Master Sgt. Lisa Stanley comes into play.
Stanley is something of a renaissance Soldier, assigned to the 111th TEB’s Human Resources Office as the non-commissioned officer in charge. Her wealth of knowledge in many things fitness has made her an invaluable asset to The Diamond Mine.
“I have a Certified Personal Training certificate and I received my CrossFit Level 1 certificate in 2009 after I returned from Iraq,” said Stanley. “I am also an Army Master Fitness Trainer. The majority of my undergraduate degree was in exercise science from Marshall University.”
The beauty of what The Diamond Mine provides is an opportunity for any Soldier to challenge themselves, in multiple exercise options. Offered throughout the day are a variety of structured fitness classes such as yoga, CrossFit, strength training, high-intensity interval training, in addition to the open gym hours.
Classes are often structured to be as challenging or as accommodating as possible in order to cover a range of individuals, regardless of their current fitness level.
“Many Soldiers are looking at this time in the desert as an opportunity to improve their physical strength and endurance. Others have stressed their desire to take off or put on a few pounds,” said Johns. “My goal is to help them achieve their individual goals. When we walk off that plane when we get back home, I want to hear ‘wow’ from the spouses and significant others.”
One would think it would be daunting to build workouts that challenge seasoned CrossFitters and strength athletes alongside other Soldiers who are unfamiliar with weight training. But Stanley greets this challenge with fervor.
“The major challenges faced are mostly related to training populations of various backgrounds and fitness familiarities in one group,” said Stanley. “I try and offer a program for those who are less familiar with high-intensity training, and to include considerations for those who need to accommodate their current fitness level.”
For one soldier, 2nd Lt. Morgan Minor, an intelligence officer with the 111th TEB, the ability to attend this gym and workout with her fellow soldiers offers a peace of mind and a piece of home.
“The Diamond Mine Gym is an escape from the other fitness locations of CBKU,” said Minor. “You can put your headphones in and feel like you are in any CrossFit gym back home.”