Deployed Marine Builds Gym in Spare Time

CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan – It’s like a scene out of “Mad Max” – 2-by-4s and pipes nailed together fill a tent as dirt-covered Marines lug around steel plates and cables. A dip bar, bench press and other gym pieces are the handiwork of Marine Corps Cpl. Frank McDermott, embark chief, Regimental Combat Team 6.

“Growing up, I didn’t really have a lot of toys,” he said. “So I’d always be with my dad when he would build stuff. My grandfather built his first two houses, and my dad built his house.”

McDermott said he built the gym equipment behind his office because although Camp Leatherneck has several gyms with well-kept commercial equipment, he wanted to avoid the long wait times experienced during peak hours.

“I was going to the gym here, … and someone is always asking you how many sets you have left and trying to rush you off,” he said. “I spend a lot of time out here [at work], so I might as well have something out back.”

McDermott, from Delran, N.J., said he got the idea to build the gym during some down time, but the first challenge was finding material.

“When I first started building it, I didn’t know what I was going to use. I didn’t have a bar or the plate weights,” he said. “I thought I was going to have to make weights out of concrete and coffee cans.” McDermott eventually found a unit on base that had extra weights to donate.

His first project was a bench press built with power tools he brought and scrap wood around the base.

“Then I had an idea for a pull-up bar, [and] then I put in a spot for doing squats, curls and shrugs,” he said. “Then I found a winch cable and some snatch blocks from the motor pool. I put that all together for a pull-down bar.”

McDermott said he’s always liked working out, even before joining the Marine Corps three years ago. He joked that being from the rural southern part of New Jersey, he’s strong from all the corn he ate growing up.

Marines who see the gym usually are fascinated, McDermott said. “Most people walk back here and just say, ‘Holy smokes!’” he added.

McDermott said about 15 Marines work out at his gym daily. “Everybody really enjoys it,” he said. “I’m just happy people use it.”

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