CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan -- Through strength, sweat, endurance and mental toughness Marines lead Afghan instructors by example during physical training on a daily basis at the Joint Sustainment Academy Southwest, Camp Leatherneck, Helmand province.
Marines have shown their Afghan counterparts how physical training can benefit them physically, mentally and emotionally.
“What got the Afghans to start working out originally was seeing the Marines’ camaraderie, and seeing the Marines attitude,” said Staff Sgt. William A. Genochio, operation chief for JSAS and a native of Independence, Mo. “They began to trickle in, and now a lot of them work out on a daily basis with us.”
Though Afghan National Security Forces students at JSAS are not allowed in the gym to work out, the Afghan instructors who are learning from and teaching alongside the Marines will be able to take what they have learned and pass it on their Afghan students.
The Marines teach the Afghans how to train themselves the right way to prevent injury and give them the strength and endurance to make them successful in combat, said Genochio.
Though lifting weights is a new style of physical training for virtually all of the Afghans, many of them say they are dedicated to putting in the extra time to become stronger like the Marines they work out with.
“Before I met Marines I never worked out before,” said Afghan National Army 2nd Lt. Abdul Wahad, an instructor for JSAS. “The first day I came in I didn’t know much about exercise, but we learned from Marines and when they leave I will keep working out because it makes me healthier and stronger.”
Marines are often seen helping and spotting the Afghan instructors in the gym to make sure they can push out the extra rep that can break the fine line between a good workout session and a phenomenal session, said Genochio.
The training the Marines and Afghans perform during their sessions together have a wide range from free weights, resistance training, Olympic style lifts, drags and even the basic Marine Corps physical training techniques.
“It feels good seeing the progress I’ve made since I started working out with Marines,” said Wahad. “I am stronger now and I can teach my people to become stronger.”
Embracing the physical challenge of pushing the body to its limits, Afghan instructors can be found in the gym at any time of day morning through evening. Some Afghans can even be found sacrificing some of their chow time to put in a little extra time in the gym.
“The Afghans that come to the gym seem to go up and beyond at work and just try harder,” said Genochio. “They’re the ones putting in the extra time, whereas others just do what they have to do to get through the day and then call it quits. If you are accustomed to putting in extra time to help yourself, you’ll be more prone to putting in extra effort during work.”
Much like Marines, ANSF instructors have found that working out not only helps their body physically but also helps fight the stress that comes from training and working all day with the Afghan students.
“Many of the Afghans here have family all over Afghanistan, parents, brothers and sisters,” said Genochio. “Coming to the gym helps take them away from the workload during the day and relieve stress that comes with training.”
The gym is a place where Afghan’s and Marines can relieve stress and take the mental weight off their shoulders by putting some physical weight on.