By Army Spc. April Campbell
Special to American Forces Press Service
May 27, 2008 - Physical fitness is an integral part of every soldier's duties, and time available to accomplish this vital task is a valuable asset for the soldiers of Multinational Division Baghdad, who have an important mission at hand. For a soldier who plans on working out for and hour or two at the gym, spending that time standing around and waiting for a working machine can be frustrating.
Army Sgt. Jared Bargas, a Houston native who serves as the training noncommissioned officer in charge with the 4th Infantry Division Band, took it upon himself to ensure that fellow soldiers don't waste time waiting at the gym due to broken equipment.
The soldiers of the 4th Infantry Division Band are responsible for maintaining the division gym here, and Bargas has made many improvements to the well-used facility throughout the past month.
"A lot of people come through the division gym every day," said Army 1st Sgt. Jeremy Smelser, the band's senior enlisted leader.
With the constant use and high demand, it can be quite a chore to keep up the gym and ensure Ivy Division soldiers have a reliable place to conduct physical fitness training.
"Equipment gets broken," said Smelser, a native of Killeen, Texas. "It needs repair. Screws need to be tightened. Air conditioners get broken. Lights burn out. It's just a constant upkeep."
Going into the job, Bargas was not necessarily trained on how to repair workout machines. However, he demonstrated ingenuity and initiative in his efforts to fix up the gym. "Instead of allowing equipment to break and using the excuse of 'I'm not a mechanic,' he took it upon himself to fix the equipment," Smelser added.
Much of the work was accomplished through Bargas' willingness to simply find out what worked through trial and error. It was a learning process, and the results of his efforts are readily evident to soldiers who frequent the gym.
"By taking apart some of the bikes, I learned what's actually inside," Bargas said. "One of the electronic machines wouldn't turn on. I had no clue about electronics, but I just unscrewed the cover and blew some dust out. I put it back together, and then it worked."
For those areas where Bargas was unable to personally resolve the issue, he took the time to find the correct channels to facilitate the repairs.
He used his personal time to talk to contractors and set up appointments for them to replace air conditioners and install new lights. Bargas also went to the nearby morale, welfare and recreation gym and canvassed the assistance of technicians, who offered to help him repair the equipment.
His time at the gym is not always exclusively spent working. He said he takes advantage of the opportunity to be one of his own customers and enjoys working out on the equipment he helps to mend. Although he works in the gym once every eight days, he spends time there working out at the facility five to six times a week. Even when he is there as a customer, he said, he tries to ensure the equipment remains functional.
"I try to check all the equipment as much as possible and fix everything," he said. "It's personally satisfying when people come up to me and tell me the gym looks nice. I know they are thankful for the working equipment."
Senior leaders also took notice of Bargas' efforts. He was recently recognized as the 4th Infantry Division Special Troops Battalion's Player of the Week and received an Army Achievement Medal.
In the meantime, Bargas said, much of his efforts will be focused on maintaining the improvements he has already made.
As the Ivy Division soldiers continue their efforts to stay physically fit, they can rest assured knowing soldiers such as Bargas are working hard to give them the best possible conditions in which to do so.
(Army Spc. April Campbell serves in the Multinational Division Baghdad Public Affairs Office.)