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Aviation Soldiers Volunteer to Coach, Lead Functional Fitness > U.S. Department of Defense > Story


Our community is very big—we are an army—so, we are a family. These classes are going to bring you a fitness togetherness with people outside of your unit, essentially building camaraderie and new partnerships.”

Army 2nd Lt. Meagan M. O’Leary

It is not uncommon to find soldiers constantly performing their own exercise routines while deployed. The U.S. Army’s new Army Combat Fitness Test continues to serve as the fitness requirement for all Army components, and soldiers stationed overseas are doing everything they can to maintain physical fitness standards in their formations.

Several Soldiers will also go the extra mile to help others achieve their health and fitness goals and turn fitness challenges into opportunities for achievement.

Army 2nd Lt. Meagan M. O’Leary, platoon leader of 2nd Battalion, 149th Aviation Regiment, General Support Aviation Battalion, 36th Combat Aviation Brigade, Texas Army National Guard, shares about her initiative to help fellow Soldiers with their strength training at Camp Buehring, Kuwait.

“This is my first deployment, and on my first day here—not even 24 hours on the ground—I kind of walked into the base commander’s office and said, ‘I want to volunteer!'” O’Leary said. “I introduced myself and said I wanted to be a coach. So, now I coach Olympic weightlifting.”

O’Leary previously competed as an Olympic figure skater for over 19 years. Ten years ago, she expanded her own fitness journey into CrossFit training, then switched to Olympic weightlifting for the last five years.

“My goal is to qualify for nationals when I get home,” she added. “I had it in my mind to do more with the deployment than just my job. So, in addition to personal and professional development like taking online classes, I wanted to work on my skills and volunteer to give back.”

Since September, O’Leary has been holding one-hour weightlifting classes during her off-duty hours at the camp’s military-affiliated CrossFit gym. Every weekend you can find her instructing and motivating groups of participants to properly perform compound movements with barbell weights. Each participant completes a workout having practiced the fundamentals of the jerk, clean and jerk, and clean and press component lifts. Class sizes vary each week, but she managed to fill the entire gym in several of her sessions.

Joining O’Leary as her assistant instructor during the weightlifting classes is Army Spc. Megan Caffey, CH-47 Chinook helicopter repairman assigned to the 449th Aviation Support Battalion, 36th CAB.

“I also did the same thing [2nd] Lt. O’Leary the first day I got here – I wanted to be a coach,” Caffey said. “I was able to coach and teach Soldiers almost every day, and I love it because I actually had people thank and show me with ‘hey, you corrected me on my exercises, now I can lift 50 pounds. more than I’ve ever done’—it was very rewarding.”

Caffey is serving in the Army Reserve at home, and since July she has been volunteering as a functional fitness trainer at Camp Buehring. She stands by her belief in how group CrossFit training can benefit soldiers training to max out the ACFT.

“For me, CrossFit is like a family. Everywhere I go, no matter where I live or serve, I always find my fitness support group at the nearest CrossFit gym,” she added. “I like how CrossFit training and the ACFT coincide, introducing more functional movements for all Soldiers. It gives them the ability to use all ranges of their physical fitness, instead of just focusing on push-ups and sit-ups -ups. So, it was really good.”

Lt. Col. Chris Nohle, commander of the Base Support Battalion, Army Support Group – Kuwait, for Camp Buehring, participated in his first session with the Olympic weightlifting class.

“The teaching program provided by [2nd] Lt. O’Leary and her team are simply phenomenal,” noted Nohle. “I’ve been lifting for over 25 years and was humbled by the workout. Her focus on form and mobility is the quality of instruction that helps our Soldiers see those gains safely.”

Nohle actively supports all service members at Camp Buehring to expand on their fitness journeys and take advantage of the many workout classes offered. Along with the Olympic weightlifting class, Camp Buehring offers a variety of volunteer-based instruction for functional fitness, including CrossFit, spin and Jujitsu classes. CrossFit sessions run four times a day, Monday through Friday, while spinning and Jujitsu classes are offered three nights a week at the aerobics tent.

“These Soldier-led classes easily deliver every day and have some of the highest participation numbers for the installation,” he added. “While our camp’s population is constantly rotating, the [BSB] work with Morale, Welfare and Recreational Fitness teams to continually assess our community’s needs and direct resources to meet them. Soldiers will see new classes and offerings over the next few months.”

Nohle also had advice for soldiers performing their first ACFT diagnostics while stationed in Kuwait.

“The new ACFT offers our Soldiers the opportunity to develop functional fitness skills and is actually designed to improve their daily lives,” said Nohle. “Some of the test’s events do require practice, but should not be considered daunting. I encourage all Soldiers at our camp to take the opportunity to train and learn from some of the other 7,000 service members stationed here is. That’s what these classes and MWR facilities do – they create a community of Soldiers who develop Soldiers to become better and stronger.”

Caffey recalled witnessing soldiers achieve body transformations while sharing their workouts with neighboring service members at Camp Buehring.

“We’ll have service members in our classes who arrive here and haven’t had regular exercise routines for a long time or feel like they don’t know what to do with themselves when it comes to fitness because they’re unmotivated,” says Caffey. “But because of our community support, we’ve seen fellow soldiers experience positive changes in their fitness. I had the honor of training with a soldier who dropped from 265 pounds to 185 pounds. All he did , was to show up and attend class on a consistent basis. His transformation was incredible.”

O’Leary further emphasized how staying with a fitness community will produce results.

“Our community is very large – we are an army – so, we are a family. These classes are going to bring you a fitness togetherness with people outside of your unit, and essentially build camaraderie and new partnerships,” she added. “You’ll always have a safe place to go, and a healthy outlet to exercise, blow off steam and be with like-minded people outside of your workplace. All it takes is putting on your trainers move and show up!”


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(Army Capt. Steven Wesolowski is assigned to the 36th Combat Aviation Brigade, Texas Army National Guard.)

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