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N.D. units go extra mile

CAMP REDSKIN, Iraq - It's an oddity of the war here: Sweat-drenched soldiers working their way through the heat of a desert afternoon, then spending additional time in the sun to exercise.

CAMP REDSKIN, Iraq - It's an oddity of the war here: Sweat-drenched soldiers working their way through the heat of a desert afternoon, then spending additional time in the sun to exercise.

But that's what they do. Soldiers of Alpha Company of the 142nd Engineer Battalion, North Dakota Army National Guard, located in Oakes, Lisbon and Mayville, have stayed true to their fitness routines without being discouraged by the challenges of the desert.

The sand may not be a runner's paradise, or a weight lifter's dream, but with the creative minds and skills of the 142nd Engineers, they'll make do with the scraps and equipment they have at their disposal.

The soldiers who are living at Camp Redskin have slowly made their living conditions as close to comfortable as possible. For some exercise fiends, a workout gym and running track were at the top of their list. Many devoted runners had to quit their programs when they first reached the new site due to lack of secured routes and safe surfaces.

Staff Sgt. Dennis Manning of Colfax took the initiative to create a one-mile track that runs along the inside of the perimeter berm that protects the company's campsite. Operator Spc. Joshua Crellin of Lisbon used a D7H dozer to pave the way for the new route, using his skills to create a straight, smooth and compacted surface for the runners.


"We wanted to make somewhere safe for the soldiers to run, and make it a nice flat trail to prevent injuries," explained Manning. The track was a motivator even for many "closet runners" to get out and make use of their time here in the desert to get in shape. The trail is a high traffic area for people at all levels of fitness during the cool hours of the morning and late evening.

"I wanted to make better use of the time I have, and my family history tells me I need to take care of my body," said Spc. Jerry Hollingsworth of Oakes. "It really motivated me when I saw the results of others who have stayed dedicated, and I knew I could do it, too."

Many of the body-sculpted results that have been seen are products not only of running but lifting weights as well. It may seem impossible in the desert, but leave it to the mechanics of Alpha Company to fabricate their very own junkyard gym.

Give Spc. Scott Johnson of Lisbon a torch and some scrap metal, and see the sparks fly!

"It's a masterpiece in motion. I'm continually finding new materials for different pieces of equipment," he explained.

After approximately three days, Johnson had created three different sizes of dumbbells out of jack stand bottoms, weights for a bench, and squat bars from the rollers off the hangar doors. He built a weight bench and sit-up bench out of scrap wood. His most ingenious creation may be the lat-pull down machine, assembled from a variety of Iraqi machine parts.

"I'll get it as close to a full gym as I can before we leave. Lifting weights is my thing, and I'm glad to see other people benefiting from it," said Johnson.

For those who don't feel they benefit from running or lifting, there are many other activities to expend their energy.


There's a sand volleyball court in front of the hangar, a basketball court in the maintenance shed, and flag (sock) football is played on the runway. Swimming at the lake is always a favorite exercise and escape from the heat.

"It gives us all a little piece of home. The lake, especially, is somewhere we can retreat and pretend we're not actually here," explained a homesick Spc. Lisa Hosman-Davis of Fargo.

Hosman-Davis is a cook attached to Alpha Company from the 142nd Engineer Battalion Headquarters Support Company in Fargo.

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