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CrossFit competitors on VBC spend weekend competing in Baghdad

Thursday, January 13, 2011

BAGHDAD—About 50 CrossFit enthusiasts spent the weekend building camaraderie by competing in individual and team events Jan. 8-9 at the field house on Camp Liberty, Iraq.

“This event gives all the CrossFitters on VBC a chance to get out and compete against each other and have a little bit of fun while decompressing for a weekend,” said Lt. Col. Donald Clarkson, anti-terrorism force protection chief with Company A, III Corps, United States Forces – Iraq and a Memphis, Tenn., native.

CrossFit is a high-intensity fitness program designed to work the core by mixing cardio-respiratory training with weight training.

“Physically, CrossFit is great preparation for combat,” Clarkson said. “CrossFit constantly mixes cardio with weight lifting movement, push-ups and pull-ups, which is … applicable to what we do down range.”

Sgt. 1st Class Jeremy Jurewicz, a chemical noncommissioned officer with Company A, III Corps, USF-I and a Detroit native, competed in the weekend event, participating in both the individual and team elements.

“CrossFit is a mind challenge and a physical challenge,” he said. “One has to push their body over the mental hurdle. … Each person has to push themselves through adverse mental effects.”

Clarkson organized a “Fight Gone Bad” shadow event in Baghdad in September 2010, which raised more than $3,000 for the Wounded Warrior Foundation. He also co-owns and operates a non-profit CrossFit affiliate at Fort Hood, Texas, where he has influenced hundreds of Soldiers’ fitness, free of charge.

“I felt it was incumbent upon me to bring CrossFit to the Army, since III Corps is on the largest Army post in the world, (Ft. Hood) with people deploying out of there constantly,” Clarkson said.

Clarkson said the biggest reward for teaching CrossFit to Soldiers is it gets the fighter better prepared for combat.

“The best predictor of how a person will fare in combat is their physical fitness,” he said. “And the best predictor of how they’ll fare under stress is their intelligence. I cannot affect their intelligence, but I can affect their physical fitness a great deal.”

Clarkson said CrossFit helps deployed Soldiers perform their duties more effectively.

“CrossFit instills a lot of confidence,” he said. “These workouts are terrible. They suck. People are on the ground afterward, but when they go downrange, the find they are no longer concerned about whether they’ll be able to perform or not. They feel confident they can perform and that is as important as anything else when downrange—is having that confidence.”