The War In The Middle East: A Bodybuilder's Story.

Hostilities are still alive and well in Iraq. Today we are going to get a bodybuilders perspective on the action and live's of those in Iraq. Get Damion Ricketts story right here.
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

On January 29, 2002, President George Bush uttered, during his State of the Union address, the immortal, epoch changing, words,"we will not permit the world's most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world's most destructive weapons".

He was, of course, referring to the weapons-of-mass-destruction supposedly hidden in Iraq, one branch of the so called axis-of-evil.

Iran and North Korea were the other branches of this axis, but it was Iraq that was charged with holding weapons - biological, chemical, and nuclear - which were said to pose a major threat to the United States of America.

UN weapons inspectors were sent into Iraq, to conduct extensive searches, which ultimately revealed nothing tangible.

Subsequent searches also found nothing. However, the prospect of a potential attack proved too strong. On June 2, five-months before the extensive weapons searches begin, Bush, during the introduction of his new defense doctrine of preemption speech at West Point, said the U.S. must act, lest a potential threat escalate in to a real one.

The following year, on March 20, the U.S. led war against Iraq begins, and Operation Iraqi Freedom is launched at 5:30am, Baghdad time.

President Bush's State Of The Union Address.
January 29, 2002.

The ensuing war is bloody and brutal, with many casualties on both sides. Saddam Hussein, Iraq's dictatorial ruler, is eventually captured, as are many of his henchmen.

The U.S. forces were, from the beginning of the war, given the role of capturing the evil-doers, and ousting the Hussein Government, while trying to ensure some semblance of normality in Iraq.

However, two-years-on, the war in Iraq continues, as insurgents - rebel militant factions - continue to up-rise and threaten the existence of those trying to forge their lives in the aftermath of Saddam Hussein's oppressive rule.

Iraq insurgency remains as strong as it has ever been. Indeed, beheadings, hostage takings and bombings by Iraq militants, continue to this day, as the US forces work with the Iraq Government, and its Army, to stabilize the country.

Who Are The Insurgents?

Iraqi insurgents are comprised of a diverse grouping of guerilla, and other rebel factions, and their respective supporters, who do not support any part of the governing alliance - and this includes the Iraqi Army, and the Government's supporters.

Insurgent groups began battling the U.S. led multi-national force, and the New Iraqi Army, shortly after the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Iraqi insurgents can be particularly brutal, using any force necessary to gain the upper hand, while some opt for a less antagonistic, but equally resist-full approach. Peaceful, non-violent resistance, is advocated by the former group.

Exact compositional detailing of the Iraqi insurgency cannot be reliably ascertained, due to the underground nature of the insurgents activities. What is known, is that the Iraqi insurgency is composed of over a dozen insurgency organizations, and many smaller cell groups.

Various Insurgent Groups Include:

  • Nationalists: these Iraqi's - mostly Sunni-Muslims - fight for independence of the Iraqi nation.

  • Ba'athists: these insurgents are the brutal armed supporters of Saddam Hussein.

  • Sunni Islamists: of the Salafi movement, these insurgents are armed indigenous peoples of Iraq.

  • Moqtada Al-Sadr's Followers: a militant grouping of the Shi'a islamist cleric, Moqtada al-Sadr.

  • Foreign Islamic Fighters: driven by the strict Sunni Wahabi doctrine - which is similar to the Salfi doctrine - these insurgents often include religious and ethnic groups in opposition to the U.S led occupation of Iraq.

Examples Of Insurgency Activity:

    Since Iraq's interim government took charge, in July 13 2003, insurgency activity has seemingly gained greater momentum.

    In 2004, between June 1 and 17, 100 people were reported killed in car bomb attacks across Iraq. Since then, insurgency activity has continued unabated.

    The worst attack to have taken place, since the interim Iraqi government took power, occurred on February 28, 2005, in Hilla, where 115 people seeking employment with the Iraqi police, were killed by a suicide bomber, using a car bomb.

    Countless military personal have died as a result of insurgency activity. In one of many similar attacks, 19 American soldiers died after a bomb exploded at a military base in Mosul, on December 21, 2004.

The Current Situation

As of June 3, 2005, more than 825 people had been killed by Iraqi insurgents. These included U.S forces personnel, and Iraqi civilians. No weapons of mass destruction have ever been found however, and Iraq, despite the instillation of a new Shiite-led government on April 28, 2004, continues to struggle with lawlessness and insurgency.

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Iraq is anything but stable, a situation the U.S Government hopes to reconcile, with the continued rotation of its forces.

The U.S armed forces, in addition to forces from other nations, have worked from their various bases in Iraq, to return a stabilized Iraq to its Government. However long this will take remains uncertain.

With insurgents increasingly graining ground, as foreign Islamic militants continue to infiltrate into Iraq, and lack of sufficient U.S forces conspire to keep Iraq in a de-stabilized position, the war could last for quite some time.

Indeed, the U.S forces, of which there are between 105,000 and 110,000 military personal alone, face an opposing task in trying to stabilize a country in disarray.

The death toll among U.S forces has reached 1,408, and counting. This fact alone serves to demonstrate the enormity of the task, these brave men and women face.

One Marine's Perspective

One member of the U.S forces, Marine lance corporal Damion Ricketts, recently shared his story with me. A member of the second rotation, Damion, 19, who works in supplies, recently returned from a seven month placement in Iraq.

As well as being a U.S Marine, Damion is a bodybuilder, who, interestingly, made most of his progress while serving, despite the lack of nutritional choice, and exhausting 12-hour work-days.

Transformation Of The Week - Damion Ricketts.
Damion has been spending his time deployed as a Marine in Iraq. He made a personal goal to workout 6 times a week. Here is what he has done.
[ Click here to learn more. ]

Damion's story is heartening, given the morbidity associated with the Iraq war. While serving, Damion worked his 12-hour-days, traveling miles and miles to obscure places to drop off supplies. His work day was long and hard. Despite this, he still found two-hours-a-day to train with weights.

His physical progress was nothing short of astounding. When Damion arrived in Iraq, he weighed 120lbs - a self-described little guy. On his return home, seven months-later, Damion weighed 145lbs of solid muscle, at a height of 5.6".

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Lance Coporal Damion Ricketts.

Now Damion has the opportunity to eat "real" food and train more regularly, his progress should skyrocket - look for him on the pro stage some day, as he is only 19, and clearly has great genetics.

In the following interview, Damion shares his Iraq experience with me, and elaborates on the current state of the war, and what he would like to see happen for the Iraq population, a people he feels essentially just want to get on with their live's in peace.

[ Q ] How long have you been in the Marines?

    I have been in the Marines for two years now.

[ Q ] What rank are you?

    Lance Corporal

[ Q ] How may times have you been to Iraq?

    I have been stationed there once now.

[ Q ] How long were you stationed in Iraq at this time?

    I was there for seven months.

[ Q ] Where were you based?

    Camp Al Taqaddum.

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Camp Al Taqaddum.

[ Q ] Do you have any experiences you would like to share with me, as far as your getting along with the locals went?

    Some of the locals were friendly, but a lot of them really didn't like us. It can be crazy over there.

[ Q ] Were you able to train as often as you wanted to in Iraq?

    I was because I made it a choice. I worked 12-hours every day for seven months, and right after getting off work, after 12-hours, I would go right to the gym for another two-hours.

[ Q ] Did you get a lot of time to sleep?

    I did get the time to sleep because I worked 12-hours-on and 12-hours-off, with two hours of that time in the gym.

[ Q ] Describe your training conditions. Did you train in your own gym, or did you train with the locals in their gym?

    We had our own gym on base, so we didn't train at any other gym.

[ Q ] Did you make progress during your seven month period in Iraq?

    I made most of my progress over there. I was very small before I left.

[ Q ] So in a seven month period you added how much muscle?

    In a seven month period, I pretty much changed my whole body. I went from 120 pounds to 145 pounds, which is my present weight.

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Before & After.

[ Q ] Tell me about your diet, and the supplements you used, in Iraq.

    We didn't have a lot of choices to make. We only had a lot of protein, and creatine. I chose Myoplex protein and a brand of creatine, and I can't think of the brand right now.

[ Q ] Since the start of the war, have more sporting opportunities presented themselves to the Iraq population, do you think?

    Yes, for example we have Iraqis working on base, and they helped us build some of the buildings we were working on. Some of these guys would come to our gym and train with us.

[ Q ] Did many of these guys train for bodybuilding, or for other sports?

    Yes, many are doing bodybuilding. I really don't know what sort of programs they did, but I'm sure they did similar stuff to what we did. They made some good progress training with us.

[ Q ] What sort of body types would you consider the Iraqi trainers to have? Would they have good genetics for bodybuilding?

    Not really. Most of them are just real small and skinny. I haven't seen one that's made a lot of progress.

[ Q ] Do Iraq people have access to steroids or other performance enhancers are far as you could see?

    We are not allowed to take steroids in the military, so personally I don't take them. I didn't really look into steroids, but I'm sure none of those guys were taking them.

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All Done Without Steroids.

Do You Think The US Military Is Steroid Free?


[ Q ] Did you get to see some of life in Iraq, how the locals live?

    No, not really. We went off base, but we didn't really stop and check the locals out. I work in supply, so it's my job to deliver supplies to other bases, so I travel through the towns a lot, and see the people, but I don't actually stop and talk to them.

[ Q ] What exactly does your job of supply involve?

    All the gear that comes to Iraq like food, clothes, armor for the vehicles, and weapons, comes through me first. I make sure it gets to the troops that are out there, like the infantry guys.

    I make sure the infantry get their weapons, make sure the guys driving the trucks get their doors, and armor for the vehicles.

[ Q ] This sounds like a very important job.

    It's probably the most important job out there.

[ Q ] What were your qualifications prior to enlisting in the Marines?

    I went to high school and right after high school I went into the Marines.

[ Q ] Do you have a sporting background?

    Yes, I wrestled in high school for all four years. I managed to get three city titles. And I played soccer for all four years too. Right after wrestling season I played soccer. I also play soccer in the Marine Corps.

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Damion Has A Wrestling & Soccer Background.

[ Q ] And where were you living at this time?

    In Pittsburg, Pennsylvania.

[ Q ] So, did the soccer you played in the Marine Corps help you with your weight training in any way?

    Yes, it helped me to get my cardio.

[ Q ] Pictures of you on show you to be very ripped, and in great shape. What do you do to achieve this. Is it mostly genetic?

    I don't know if it is genetic or not, but I do work out a lot. So I think all the work I do must help. I do also think its genetics though.

[ Q ] Were you able to eat as often as you wanted to over in Iraq?

    No, I wasn't able to eat as often as I wanted to. The food really sucks. Just what they serve is what you eat. We still had regular stuff like pizza so it wasn't all bad.

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The Food Sucks!

[ Q ] Any plans for going back to Iraq?

    I'm not really sure. I'm sure I probably will be going back, but at the moment I have no idea.

[ Q ] What are you doing now?

    Right now I'm back at the regular base working, doing the same job I did before I left. Now I'm on regular hours, so I have a lot more time to go to the gym.

[ Q ] What exactly are your bodybuilding goals now that you are back at the regular base?

    I just want to keep it up to stay in shape. I don't know if I will compete. I don't know how to get started doing that, so I will just continue doing it because I like it.

[ Q ] Would you consider entering a show at some point?

    If it comes up and I think I could, I would.

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A Possible Contest In Damion's Future?

[ Q ] Getting back to Iraq, what changes had you seen since you began serving there?

    I went on the second rotation, and my feeling was that everything slowed down, the bombing slowed down.

    As far as that, a lot of change hasn't been made as far as live's go. Working on base, I didn't get to see everything that went on though.

[ Q ] What are your personal thoughts or opinions on the war?

    Being over there, I've seen how it is. I've seen that the locals are really struggling. It's really hard over there. We are actually helping the locals.

    So, I'm for it (the war). I don't see it as a war now. I see it as we are handing the country over to their Government. They have their own military and we are out there now helping the local military guys. We are trying to hand it back to their government, their army, so we can get out of there.

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We're There To Support The Local Military.

[ Q ] How long do you think this will take?

    It's going to be a long time before we get out of there, but I'm sure we will one day.

[ Q ] Do you guys (the US Marines) get shown any respect from the locals in Iraq?

    From the local guys? Yes. They do show us a lot of respect. The problems come from the insurgents, and they're not locals. They're from other places, and they don't like us. The locals really love us being there. They smile and give us the thumbs up.

[ Q ] What do you hope to achieve as an individual, if you go back to Iraq again?

    If I go over there again, I just want to do the same job that I did before. I just want to help my troops, because I'm over there to support my troops. There are troops who directly support the locals, but I would just like to support the troops that support the locals. The same thing I did last time.

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Support The Troops.

[ Q ] Thank you for your time Damion.

    No problem David.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are not necessarily in line with my ownthoughts and feelings on the War. The introduction is a review of the facts,as they stand - nothing more, nothing less. Finally, alternative reports have suggested the food, and eating facilities at Camp Al Taqaddum, are excellent, in contrast to what is conveyed in this article.