Thursday, July 12, 2007

Gym Time

12 Jul 07
Before I went on R&R I worked with the British to allow our IqAF members to come on the RAF camp to use their gym. First though I wanted to set some ground rules for the Iraqis to make sure they didn't abuse the RAF's generosity or get themselves hurt. Before they could use the gym they had to do a safety brief on how to use the equipment and secondly they would only come to the gym during appointed hours to ensure they didn't conflict with British workout times.

I thought the safety brief would simply be a formality but many of them were seeing gym equipment for the first time. Abdul Aziz drove the point home fore me when he and I went back to the gym in the afternoon to work out. He was obviously worried about hurting himself so did each exercise with the smallest weights he could find for the exercise (essentially the 2.5 lbs weights).

We got on the treadmills and Abdul Aziz asked me to show him again how to start the machine. After I showed him which button to push he pushed the speed button just one time to get the machine started and quickly took his finger off the button. He was at 0.8 kmh and intended to stay there (yes, point 8 kmh). Abdul Aziz is a young, fit guy and by comparison, beginning runners start at 7.5 kmh. Point 8 kmh is literally "little old lady with a walker" speed. It was really funny when Aziz began to jog on the machine at that speed.

I thought eventually he would figure the machine out and speed up. After maybe a minute at 0.8 kmh I encouraged him to speed up...he pushed the button one more time taking him to 0.9 kmh. Again I looked at him and said "more" then reached over and pushed the speed button myself intending to at least get him to a very slow trot pace. His eyes got huge like saucers and at 4.5 kmh he became emphatic, "o....o...okay, Bill. That is enough. Please, Bill." It dawned on me that before that day he had never seen a treadmill much less been on one. Abdul Aziz would have to learn to crawl on the machine before he was confident enough to run on it.

I was pleased yesterday when I went to the gym with Abdul Aziz that he ran at 9.5 kmh. It wasn't fast but it wasn't .8 either.

I finished my run then sat on the side and talked to Lt Col Jasim. Jasim recently came to the squadron from another squadron in the IqAF. We talked about where he was from and his IqAF career. He had just become qualified in the IL-76 when Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1991. Of course Iraq flew most of the aircraft to Iran and never got them back so Jasim's days flying IL-76s were short lived.

Shortly after GW1 ended, Jasim's uncle was convicted of speaking out against Saddam's regime (sedition) and was subsequently hanged. Additionally, to make an example for others, Saddam had all of the dead man's family members fired if they had government jobs. Jasim was thrown out of the IqAF and made a living the next few years as a construction worker. Needless to say Jasim hated Saddam.

When Jasim came back into the IqAF it had been some 14 years since he had flown but still the IqAF brought him in as a Lt Col and placed him in the premier C-130 program. He was sent to Little Rock AFB for pilot training, however, his language skills weren't good enough and like most former IqAF pilots, his flying skills had atrophied. He struggled in the program and was eventually dropped. When I asked him about the program he was nostalgic..."I met so many good friends in Arkansas and it was so beautiful. I also spent 3 days in Charleston [SC] on my way home and I saw the ocean. It was so nice. Before, I only dream of visiting [the] United States." Of course, we had to talk more in depth about Charleston too.

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