Our C-130 transport plane touched down in the middle of the night at Joint Base Balad in Iraq. It was 2010, and I had been deployed to Iraq to take part in Operation New Dawn ordered by President Obama. I was part of the crew responsible to keep the base hospital operational during the orderly withdrawal of US Forces. After a few hours of sleep I rolled out of my bunk, put on my battle dress uniform and made my way to the hospital in the 120 degree July heat for my first day of work. An NCO issued me a firearm and another checked my gas mask and chemical protection gear. I sat down to start reading radiographs, CT scans, and ultrasounds generated from combat traumas as well as routine cases like twisted ankles, kidney stones, and pneumonias. At first I only had to work 12 hour shifts 7 days per week. The base was large with over 30,000 military troops and contractors when I arrived, but most of the soldiers were healthy and combat injuries were diminishing every month as more and more troops were sent home.
When the trauma work was light in the middle of the night I finally had time to myself. The frantic demands on my time that I had been dealing with for nearly 20 years came to a sudden halt. After all those years of working and studying 80 – 100+ hours per week, suddenly I found that I had time to ponder life and study whatever interested me. I also wanted to use some of my free time to get in better shape. Fortunately, the Iraqi army had left a swimming pool when they turned over the base to the US Air Force, and the base commander had made it a priority to acquire gym equipment for the troops. After a night shift I enjoyed going to pool or the gym for a morning workout. The only inconvenience was the frequent C-RAM siren indicating incoming rockets and mortars. This required us to jump out of the pool and run for cover. I planned out an ambitious exercise regimen, but as the weeks went on I didn’t lose weight or feel stronger. In fact, I felt progressively worse. I was following the usual fitness precepts: alternating weight lifting and cardio while eating large amounts of protein — mostly meat, eggs, and dairy. Yet somehow my weight was going up while my stamina was going down.
Finally, my frustration reached a peak one night when I couldn’t even jog a slow mile on the lonely treadmill in the hospital basement without feeling exhausted. I walked back through the dark empty halls to my office and opened my scriptures to a well-known passage: Doctrine and Covenants Section 89. Read More→