Sergeant finds use for body armor away from war
HEIDELBERG, Germany — It started in basic training 20 years ago.
Little, skinny Pvt. Algernon Carter — all of 120 pounds — annoyed his drill sergeant frequently. As a result, he was often on the ground, doing push-ups.
“I had to do so many push-ups, they started calling me ‘Iron Man,’” Carter said. “I liked that.”
When he was posted to Korea, Carter’s satisfaction in building a bigger, better body increased. “There’s only two things to do there: shop and lift weights. That’s all we did, weightlifting and shopping.”
He shopped a lot, he said, but he lifted weights more. “Oh my gosh — three hours a day, sometimes four hours.”
That discipline and dedication is one reason why visitors to the gym on Campbell Barracks over the past few months have seen a singular sight: a very muscular 43-year-old, running on the treadmill, riding the bike and sitting in the sauna wearing his IBA — Interceptor Body Armor — complete with ceramic plates.
“After you take it off, you feel lighter,” Carter said during one of his grueling workouts. “Like your body’s rising up.”
The flak vest workout, started months before an Iraq deployment last year as a way to condition himself to wearing the vest, has become standard for Carter, now a 220-pound sergeant first class assigned to Heidelberg’s NATO headquarters.
“It helps you lose weight; it keeps you in shape; what more do you need?” he said. “You should try it.”
The idea came to him last year in Wiesbaden before a deployment to Iraq with the 27th Transportation Battalion. “They said, ‘It’s going to be hot,’” Carter said.
He noticed a captain running on the treadmill wearing his vest, but without the heavy ceramic plates.
“So I said let me try something different.” He put his plates in, put the vest on and started to run.
“Believe me, when I first started, it hurt a lot. Every morning, I thought, ‘What am I doing?’”
But he kept at it, and it paid off when he was at Balad Air Base in Iraq.
“To me, standing guard duty was not an issue. I could wear the IBA all the time. I love Iraq. I wish I was there now.”
In Wiesbaden, Carter said a number of people, especially sergeants major, made fun of him or otherwise engaged him about his workout.
Especially when he wore the vest into the sauna.
“They said, ‘You’re not going to get shot in here,’” Carter said. He also said that if it were permissible to wear his Kevlar during his workout, he would.
But since he was assigned to Heidelberg in April, no one has asked him what he’s doing or why he’s wearing a flak vest weighing some 30 pounds in the sauna.
“Not a word,” he said. “I’ve not had one person approach me. Everyone just looks at me.”
For the record, Carter’s flak vest workout consists of three miles on the treadmill — “not fast miles,” he said, followed by 10 minutes on the bike.
Then he sits in the sauna for a while. He does that three days a week, and is looking forward to a deployment in the next couple of months to Afghanistan.