Photo Information

Staff Sgt. Trent Nichols, a section leader with Regimental Combat Tem 8’s Mobile Security Detachment, installs a mirror in the newly refurbished Camp Ripper gym, April 11, 2009. The facility now has new mirrors, flooring and front desk area.

Photo by Staff Sgt. Ryan Smith

Refurbished gym gives a lift to RCT-8 Marines

28 Apr 2009 | Staff Sgt. Ryan Smith

Physical training is a daily part of a Marine’s life when forward-deployed. It relieves stress and provides a way for them to strengthen their physical endurance and build stronger muscles. However, dealing with the musty scent of decaying wood and sweat filling the air in the Camp Ripper gym aboard Al Asad Air Base, Iraq, on a daily basis, it became hard for the Marines of Regimental Combat Team 8 to concentrate on becoming physically fit.

Several RCT- 8 Marines, with assistance from local Kellogg, Brown and Root workers, decided to do something about it.

“I received notice of uneven spots in the floor from several Marines,” said Gunnery Sgt. Andy Ledford, the company gunnery sergeant for Headquarters Company, RCT-8.  “Upon further inspection, we realized the floor was moldy and dingy which was contributing to the overall musty smell.  The floor was rotting out from under us.”

The old, wooden floors were exposed to discover they had been worn and decayed by years of sweat and water saturation.

“About two years ago a new floor had been put in, but it was laid directly on top of the old one,” said Ledford. “The new floor at that time, was being affected by the rotting one underneath.”

The plan was put into action.   Marines and sailors from RCT-8 Mobile Security Detachment, as well as the regimental operations section, regimental aid station and Headquarters Company began removing the aged flooring.

“After the old floors were removed, KBR put in a floating floor underneath the main floor to help with air circulation and keep the mildew to a minimum,” said Ledford.

Replacing the rotted floor also reflects in the overall health of the service members who visit the facility.

“Long-term exposure to mold can lead to significant allergies or other medical problems,” said Lt. Cmdr. Richard Lynch, the regimental surgeon for RCT-8.

Once the floor was complete, more initiatives were added to the project.

“We put in new walls, a new front desk area, and new mirrors,” said Ledford.  We also had KBR rewire all of the air conditioning units and add new lighting for the facility.  It was a complete makeover on the inside.”

Overall, many Marines like the changes to the facility.

“I believe the improvements have created a better look and feel to the gym,” said Pfc. Robin Johnson, an information management data technician with RCT-8. “It has created a better environment for Marines and sailors to conduct their physical training.”

With the new renovations completed, service members can now breathe easy while conducting physical training.

For more information on the ongoing mission in Iraq’s Al Anbar province, visit