BABIL, Iraq- Soldiers often set goals to achieve while deployed, finishing college, learning to play an instrument or, one of the most popular, getting in better shape.Often, Soldiers have hectic schedules during deployment and find it hard to schedule time to go to the gym. Often, when they do find the time, the gym is full of other Soldiers working for the same goal.Soldiers with the Maintenance Troop, Regimental Support Squadron, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, have an alternative to hectic schedules and gym over-crowding - starting their own gym. The "First String Gym" started with one piece of gym equipment and has developed into a functional workout facility in the RSS motorpool."At First String Gym we promote healthy and safe workout and eating habits with good nutrition. That's why we are able to see the best results," said Staff Sgt. Hector Martyr, a noncommissioned officer in Maintenance Troop, originally from the Caribbean island of St. Lucia."Here we don't care how much you can lift. We care that you are doing it correctly and that you see the results," said Cpl. Kenneth Messenger, also from Maintenance Troop and a native of Oshkosh, Wis.The main focuses of gym patrons are getting in shape or maintaining desired fitness levels. First String was started with both in mind."First String Gym started in a primitive stage with unconventional and unorthodox methods of keeping fit, due to work constraints and scheduling," said Martyr.
"We didn't have time to conduct [organized] physical training. So we figured out a way to do it on our own," said Messenger.Martyr and his fellow Soldiers found their first piece of equipment during the cleaning up of their motorpool. This led to the discovery of other workout equipment in their area."Our night crew approached a group of Soldiers and asked if we could use a Bow-Flex that was sitting in their bay at the time. We were then sent to a container that had some dumbbells," said Martyr.In addition, welders in the unit fabricated a weight bench and the gym's founders received sponsorship from Master Sgt. John Dowd, the head noncommissioned officer for the 3d ACR supply section and a resident fitness expert on the base. Dowd, a native of Burgaw, N.C., also advised the team on safety and proper usage of the weights."Master Sergeant Dowd was the biggest help," said Martyr. "His interest in us and willingness to help us get more equipment has set us up for success."
First String has grown in size and equipment, and its patrons are in the process of creating a motivational t-shirt. The gym even has its own Facebook page, designed to allow family members to follow along with their Soldier's fitness progress.