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Feature Stories

NEWS | April 27, 2021

Deployed club lifts 70k pounds to boost morale, do good

By Story by Capt. Travis Mueller 28th Expeditionary Combat Aviation Brigade

When Sgt. Stephen Bruckno arrived in the Middle East, he noticed the 1000-pound club at Camp Buehring’s Scorpion Gym was suspended due to COVID-19 precautions.

Knowing the positive impact events like that have on Soldiers, he hatched an idea to organize a virtual 1000-pound club himself.

“We thought it would be fun to design our own ‘1000-pound club’ shirt, in the spirit of the Morale, Welfare and Recreation program and the t-shirts they give out for the virtual 5Ks,” said Bruckno. “Some of us talked about the idea in passing, so I posted an ad on Facebook to gauge interest.”

Bruckno, a combat medic deployed with the 28th Expeditionary Combat Aviation Brigade, acknowledged that he is thankful to be able to use a gym at all. But he wanted to create something that could boost morale, provide something for fitness-minded Soldiers to work for and also do a little bit of good.

In November, Bruckno organized the virtual club which was open to any U.S. military members serving in the Middle East in support of Operation Inherent Resolve and Operation Spartan Shield. Participants were to lift a total of 1000 pounds for males and 500 pounds for females on the bench press, squat and deadlift, record themselves doing it and send the videos to Bruckno.

In the end, 70 participants qualified, lifting over 35 tons collectively. Each of them donated a set amount of money which covered a 1000-pound club sweatshirt and a donation to the Pennsylvania Wounded Warriors Fund.

“More people replied than I would have ever anticipated. Given the volume of interest, I thought it would be irresponsible to not use this opportunity to raise money for a military charity,” said Bruckno. “COVID-19 was bad for morale, both in and out of the military. I got the opportunity to see a lot of Soldiers and Marines break through their limits in the gym and their morale soared with it.”

Like many deployed service members, Bruckno believes that going to the gym is an important way to blow off some steam and stay in shape. He says a number of people deployed and at home are interested in another round.

To him, stereotypes and judgment should be left at the door as well so that all service members can enjoy the benefits of the gym.

“No matter if you’re skinny or fat or jacked, you are welcome at the gym.”