Aviation Soldiers volunteer to coach, lead functional fitness | Article

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U.S. Army 2nd Lt. Meagan M. O’Leary, platoon leader from 2nd Battalion, 149th Aviation Regiment, General Support Aviation Battalion, 36th Combat Aviation Brigade, Texas Army National Guard (far right), coaches and practices with a class over a variety of component lifts at the CrossFit gym in Camp Buehring, Oct. 22, 2022.
(Photo Credit: Capt. Steven Wesolowski, 36th CAB Public Affairs)

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U.S. service members gather for a group photo at the conclusion of a weightlifting class at Camp Buehring, Kuwait, Sept. 24, 2022.
(Photo Credit: 2nd Lt. Meagan O’Leary, 2-149th GSAB Public Affairs Representative)

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U.S. Army Soldiers and section leaders of 36th Combat Aviation Brigade, “Task Force Mustang,” conduct an Army Combat Fitness Test diagnostic led by Staff Sgt. Mark Masten, geospatial engineer sergeant for 36th CAB, at Camp Buehring, Kuwait, Oct. 24, 2022.
(Photo Credit: Courtesy photo from Staff Sgt. Mark Masten, 36th CAB)

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CAMP BUEHRING, Kuwait – It’s not uncommon to find Soldiers continuously performing their own workout routines while deployed. The U.S. Army’s new Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT) continues to serve as the fitness requirement for all Army components, and Soldiers stationed overseas are doing everything they can to keep physical fitness standards in check across their formations.

Several Soldiers will also go the extra mile to help others reach their health and fitness goals, turning fitness challenges into opportunities for achievement.

U.S. Army 2nd Lt. Meagan M. O’Leary, platoon leader from 2nd Battalion, 149th Aviation Regiment, General Support Aviation Battalion (GSAB), 36th Combat Aviation Brigade (CAB), Texas Army National Guard (TXARNG), shares about her initiative in helping fellow Soldiers with their strength training workouts at Camp Buehring.

“This is my first deployment, and on my first day here—not even 24 hours on ground—I kind of ‘barged’ into the base commander’s office and said, ‘I want to volunteer!’” said O’Leary. “I introduced myself and said I wanted to be a coach. So, now I coach Olympic weightlifting.”

O’Leary previously competed as an Olympic figure skater for over 19 years. 10 years ago, she expanded her own fitness journey in CrossFit training, and then transitioned to Olympic weightlifting for the last five years.

“My goal is to qualify for nationals when I get home,” she added. “I have had it in my mind to do more with the deployment than just my job. So, in addition to doing personal and professional development like taking online classes, I wanted to work on my skills and volunteer to give back.”

Since September, O’Leary runs one-hour weightlifting classes during her off-duty hours at the camp’s military-affiliated CrossFit gym. Every weekend you can find her instructing and motivating groups of participants to properly exercise compound movements with barbell weights. Every participant achieves a workout after practicing fundamentals of the snatch, clean and jerk, and clean and press component lifts. Class sizes vary each week, but she has managed to fill out the entire gym in several of her sessions.


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U.S. Army 2nd Lt. Meagan M. O’Leary, platoon leader from 2nd Battalion, 149th Aviation Regiment, General Support Aviation Battalion, 36th Combat Aviation Brigade, Texas Army National Guard, shares about her initiative in helping fellow Soldiers with their strength training workouts at Camp Buehring, Kuwait, Oct. 22, 2022.
(Photo Credit: Capt. Steven L. Wesolowski, 36th CAB Public Affairs)

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U.S. service members gather at the end of the “Nightmare Before Demob” CrossFit team competition held at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, Oct. 15, 2022.
(Photo Credit: 2nd Lt. Meagan O’Leary, 2-149th GSAB Public Affairs Representative)

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U.S. Army 2nd Lt. Meagan M. O’Leary, platoon leader from 2nd Battalion, 149th Aviation Regiment, General Support Aviation Battalion, 36th Combat Aviation Brigade, Texas Army National Guard, shares about her initiative in helping fellow Soldiers with their strength training workouts at Camp Buehring, Kuwait, Oct. 22, 2022. Pictured is O’Leary performing a jump during her Olympic figure skating career.
(Photo Credit: Courtesy photo from 2nd Lt. Meagan M. O’Leary, 2-149th GSAB Public Affairs Representative)

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Accompanying O’Leary as her assistant instructor during a weightlifting class was U.S. Army Spc. Megan Caffey, CH-47 Chinook helicopter repairer assigned to the 449th Aviation Support Battalion, 36th CAB.

“I also did the same thing Lt. O’Leary did when I arrived here day one—I wanted to be a coach,” said Caffey. “I have been able to coach and teach Soldiers pretty much every single day, and I love it because I have actually had people thanking and showing me with ‘hey, you corrected me on my exercises, now I can lift 50 lbs. more than I have ever done before’—that has been very rewarding.”

Caffey serves in the U.S. Army Reserve back home, and volunteers as a functional fitness coach at Camp Buehring since July. She stands by her belief in how group CrossFit exercises can benefit Soldiers training to max the ACFT.

“To me, CrossFit is like a family. Everywhere I go, no matter where I live or serve, I always end up finding my fitness support group at the nearest CrossFit gym,” she added. “I like how CrossFit exercises and the ACFT coincide with each other, introducing more functional movements for all Soldiers. This gives them the ability use all ranges of their physical fitness, instead of just focusing on push-ups and sit-ups. So, that’s been really good.”

Participating in his first session with the Olympic weightlifting class was U.S. Army Lt. Col. Chris Nohle, commander of the Base Support Battalion (BSB), Army Support Group – Kuwait, for Camp Buehring.

“The program of instruction provided by Lt. O’Leary and her team is simply phenomenal,” Nohle remarked. “I’ve been lifting for over 25 years and was humbled by the workout. Her focus on form and mobility is the quality of instruction that helps our Soldiers safely see those gains.”

Nohle actively supports all service members at Camp Buehring to expand on their fitness journeys and take advantage of the numerous workout classes provided. Along with the Olympic weightlifting class, Camp Buehring offers a variety of volunteer-based instruction for functional fitness, including CrossFit, spinning, and Jujitsu classes. CrossFit sessions run four times a day, Monday-Friday, while spinning and Jujitsu classes run three evenings per week at the Aerobics tent.

“These Soldier-led classes easily max out every day and have some of the highest participation numbers for the installation,” he added. “While our camp’s population is constantly revolving, the BSB works alongside Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (MWR) fitness teams to continually assess our community’s needs and direct resources to meet them. Soldiers will see new classes and offerings over the next few months.”


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U.S. service members max out attendance during a volunteer-led spinning class held at the Aerboics tent in Camp Buehring, Kuwait, 2022.
(Photo Credit: Courtesy photo from Lt. Col. Christopher Nohle, BSB-CBKU)

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U.S. service members conduct stretching exercises led by U.S. Army 2nd Lt. Meagan M. O’Leary, platoon leader from 2nd Battalion, 149th Aviation Regiment, General Support Aviation Battalion, 36th Combat Aviation Brigade, Texas Army National Guard, prior to weightlifting instruction held at the CrossFit gym in Camp Buehring, Kuwait, Oct. 22, 2022.
(Photo Credit: Capt. Steven L. Wesolowski, 36 CAB Public Affairs)

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U.S. service members gather for a group photo at the end of the “Nightmare Before Demob” CrossFit team competition held at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, Oct. 15, 2022.
(Photo Credit: 2nd Lt. Meagan O’Leary, 2-149th GSAB Public Affairs Representative)

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Nohle also had some advice for Soldiers conducting their first ACFT diagnostics while stationed in Kuwait.

“The new ACFT provides our Soldiers with an opportunity to develop functional fitness skills and are actually designed to improve their daily lives,” stated Nohle. “Some of the test’s events do require practice, but should not be viewed as daunting. I encourage all Soldiers at our camp to use the opportunity to train and learn from some of the other 7,000 service members stationed here. That’s what these classes and MWR facilities do–they create a community of Soldiers developing Soldiers to get better and stronger.”

Caffey recalled witnessing Soldiers achieving body transformations while sharing their workouts with neighboring service members at Camp Buehring.

“We’ll receive service members in our classes who get here and haven’t had solid workout routines in quite a while, or feel like they don’t know what to do with themselves when it comes to fitness because they’re unmotivated,” said Caffey. “But because of our community support, we have seen fellow Soldiers experience positive changes in their fitness. I had the honor of working out with a Soldier who dropped from 265 lbs. down to 185 lbs. All he did was show up and join a class on a consistent basis. His transformation was incredible.”


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U.S. Army Soldiers and section leaders of 36th Combat Aviation Brigade, “Task Force Mustang,” 36th Infantry Division, Texas Army National Guard, conduct the two-mile run event for an Army Combat Fitness Test diagnostic led by Staff Sgt. Mark Masten, geospatial engineer sergeant for 36th CAB, at Camp Buehring, Kuwait, Oct. 24, 2022. Leading the pace during a two-mile diagnostic is 1st Sgt. Borislav Manchev, first sergeant of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 36th CAB (far left).
(Photo Credit: Courtesy photos from Staff Sgt. Mark Masten, 36th CAB)

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U.S. Army Soldiers and section leaders of 36th Combat Aviation Brigade, “Task Force Mustang,” conduct an Army Combat Fitness Test diagnostic led by Staff Sgt. Mark Masten, geospatial engineer sergeant for 36th CAB, at Camp Buehring, Kuwait, Oct. 24, 2022.
(Photo Credit: Courtesy photo from Staff Sgt. Mark Masten, 36th CAB))

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O’Leary further emphasized how sticking with a fitness community will produce results.

“Our community is very big—we are an Army—so, we are a family. These classes are going to bring you a fitness cohesion with people outside your unit, and essentially build camaraderie and new partnerships,” she added. “You will always have a safe place to go, and a healthy outlet to come exercise, burn off steam, and be with like-minded people outside your workplace. All it takes is putting on your workout shoes and showing up!”

All service members and guests can learn more about the various workout programs, classes, and events provided at the 24-hour Camp Buehring gym and “CBKU One-Stop” QR code.