PAKTIKA PROVINCE, Afghanistan — When it's time for Soldiers from Task Force Rakkasan's "Leader" Battalion to hit the gym at Forward Operating Base Orgun-E in Paktika province, some are finding that the gym is hitting back.
Anthony Hernandez, civilian contractor and former professional boxer, recently began offering boxing classes to the Soldiers there.
"I want to make great warriors become even better fighters," he said. "I want to try and turn out a couple of the guys that want to compete in amateur athletics when we get back to the states."
Hernandez said that bringing boxing to the Soldiers during a deployment made sense, especially since he could never quite get the hunger to box out of his system.
Since he began boxing at age eight, he's a laundry list of accomplishments within the sport.
A four-time state champion at age 16, he was ranked third in the U.S. for his weight class, 132 lbs. Having turned professional in 1998, it was only natural for him to feel the need to train others to become better fighters, he said.
"There is [Mixed Martial Arts], [Ultimate Fighting Championship], all these things that a person can go to any barroom and see, but you have to have discipline to be able to be in boxing, karate, jiu-jitsu; the core fighting structures," said Hernandez.
That discipline is something he's working to pass to his students.
"In the states, amateur boxing has taken a backseat to computer games and fake stuff," Hernandez said. "I just want to see people get more disciplined, especially the kids who are sitting playing video games all day."
Hernandez said he'd eventually like his program sponsored by Morale Welfare and Recreation.
Currently, all the training equipment in use is bought out-of-pocket by participants.
"I would love to dedicate all of my time to training people and coordinating a nice gym routine," Hernandez said.
Even though the boxers at Orgun-E lack some equipment, it still can't pull the warrior spirit and competitive nature away from those looking to better themselves.
"You never know your limits until you test them," said U.S. Army Sgt. Maurice Gilliard, paralegal with 1st Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division. "Anybody can bench press and run with the best. Not everyone can punch with the best."
While boxing teaches mental discipline, just as any other martial arts can, it is also an extremely effective cardiovascular workout and a positive way to relieve some of the stresses of being deployed, Gilliard said.
"This class is a great way to keep Soldier's positively engaged in something and keep their minds off of fighting a war for a few minutes while releasing some aggression," Gilliard said.
Gilliard, a self-described "work-out-aholic", said the class brings a great combination of muscular endurance, cardiovascular endurance, as well as testing a person's coordination.
Classes take place at the Orgun-E gym Tues., Thurs., and Sat., at 8 p.m. and are open to any Soldiers who would like to participate.
This work, Making great warriors, even better fighters, by PFC Christopher McKenna, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.