News: Semper Fit fights to supply WTI Marines on base, training front
Story by Lance Cpl. James Marchetti
MARINE CORPS AIR STATION YUMA, Ariz. - During the spring and fall months, Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., experiences a population explosion due to the bi-annual Weapons and Tactics Instructor course run by Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron One. Permanent personnel quickly accept that everywhere they go, from the commissary to the station gym, there will be a surplus of temporarily billeted Marines sharing the space.
Dealing with the swarm of new faces can make it difficult for station personnel to accomplish their daily missions. For example, Marine Corps Community Services often double their work load during WTI season, and their equipment and resources are pushed to the limits in order to support each service member working and training at MCAS Yuma.
According to Richard Pierce, the Semper Fit fitness coordinator on station, MCCS does not distinguish between Marines who are permanently stationed in Yuma and those participating in training exercises on simulated forward operating bases (FOBs) for WTI.
The fitness of all Marines is equally important. With this in mind, MCCS donated Conex boxes of gym equipment and shipped them to various FOBs, allowing all Marines in the field to maintain their physical conditioning and war fighting prowess.
“It’s glaringly obvious that if you’re in better physical condition, your chances of escaping a fire fight or hand-to-hand combat with less injury are exponentially greater … These guys’ lives can depend on it,” said Pierce. “We do it because we’re here for the Marines. From a fitness stand point, you can start deconditioning after just a couple weeks.”
For many Marines assigned to the FOBs, these gyms are a rarity that they only experience during WTI field training exercises.
With a gym at their disposal, Marines have an opportunity to work out with their friends, refine their bodies and improve unit cohesion.
“This is the first time I’ve ever had this out here,” said Lance Cpl. Austin T. Tant , a mortarman with 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, based out of Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif. “It was the main thing that’s been keeping me going this whole time. It makes my day and is definitely a morale booster.”
According to Tant, Marines don’t simply want gyms out in their training sites; they need them.
“When we don’t have a gym, we usually run and do pushups with a flak [jacket] on,” explained Tant. “It’s very ineffective; I usually lose a lot of weight and muscle mass out in the field.”
Pierce explained that his main purpose as the Semper Fit fitness director is to provide Marines with the tools they need to uphold and improve their physical conditioning. Without the right kind of equipment, Pierce believes Marines will either hurt themselves or deteriorate physical gains they have made during time spend out of the field, in garrison.
Having overcome many external obstacles over the years due to funding and continual demands, MCCS and Semper Fit continue to strive to support their Marines, near and far, providing the opportunity to improve themselves and their careers.
“We started just giving them a few pieces here at Site 50, and from then it’s grown to a full Conex box and now three full Conex boxes for the three largest FOBs that come through for MCAS Yuma’s WTI,” said Pierce.
“Ideally, I’d like to have Conex boxes for every FOB. Even in a situation where there might only be 10 Marines, they should have something, even if it’s just a bar and a couple dumbbells,” said Pierce. “They’re all equally important … One Marine out here on a FOB is no less important than a Marine on base.”