CAMP RIPPER, Iraq -- After a long day’s work here, Marines need a way to relieve stress and relax from the rigors of being in a combat zone. Nothing serves better than a good workout.
Until a few months ago, the gym was barely large enough to hold a dozen people and equipment. The RCT-2 Headquarters & Support Company Commanding Officer and his Executive Officer created a plan to build a bigger gym to ease their Marines’ problems of stress relief through exercise.
Construction started in July and on Aug. 1 the Staff Sgt. Kendall H. Ivy II Memorial Gym opened for business and received its first eager customers.
“It’s like Gold’s Gym in the desert,” said a smiling Sgt. Johnny A. Noguera, the gym manager and Brooklyn-Coney Island, N.Y., native. “It’s open 24 hours a day minus our cleaning period and it provides an excellent boost in morale for the troops.”
The 120-foot by 30-foot gym was named after Staff Sgt. Kendall H. Ivy II, a well-known brother-in-arms, described as a “perfect picture of a Marine”, who was killed in May during Operation Matador while working with Company L, 3rd Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment.
Ivy’s picture adorns the wall of the gym and his presence is still heavily felt as those like Noguera, who work in the gym, take pride in their job to honor their fallen brother.
“We are here to enforce the rules and keep the gym clean,” the sophomore at the University of Miami stated. “We also assist those who need help and make the best of slow periods by exercising.”
The gym has a variety of weights, including dumbbells, barbells, cardiovascular machines and various weight benches. There is also a widescreen TV that patrons can watch while exercising or relaxing. While the donated equipment and gear is limited, Noguera and other gym managers are satisfied with what they have. But they could always use more.
“I brought in some free weights, a stereo and wrestling mats for everyone to use,” said the 30-year-old Brazilian jujitsu enthusiast. “Others have brought in weights, posters and fridges for gym use. Everyone wants to make this place as nice as possible, especially for the Marines who knew Staff Sgt. Ivy.”
Noguera, who is an Individual Readiness Reserve Marine activated last fall, understands how important it is to relieve combat stress after being injured while working on the frontlines with Company K, 3rd Battalion, 25th Marines. He returned to Camp Ripper in time to become one of the first gym managers to run the gym named after a Marine that others emulate.
“When I was growing up in South America, one of my father’s friends had a son who was a Marine. He was so proud of him and he seemed to have this aura around him. That’s how Staff Sgt. Ivy was and that’s what I wanted to be,” said the 1995 Colegio General Rafael Reyes High School graduate. “I was in boot camp within a week after meeting the recruiter.”
Day in and day out Marines like Noguera enter the facility to relieve stress in the wooden and plastic building dedicated to a man who was held in the highest regard by many.
“I know that many people miss him and they look at this gym as a direct reflection of their love for him,” he said. “This is why I stress to the guys who work here to keep this place in order so we can properly pay homage to the man who it’s named after.”