We weren’t surprised about how Marines kept fit in Sangin. Well … except for this one guy

Sgt. Sylvester Brooks whups it on in Afghanistan with his high altitude mask.

Sgt. Sylvester Brooks whups it on in Afghanistan with his high altitude mask.

By Hope Hodge Seck

FOB Sabit Qadam—It’s springtime in Afghanistan, and that means the mercury is already pushing into the triple digits here in Sangin. That didn’t seem to make a difference for Sgt. Sylvester Brooks, who tore through the FOB at top speed on a 45-minute run, wearing a high-altitude mask to make an already sweltering workout more challenging.

During a quiet deployment focused on drawdown efforts, the outdoor gym seldom sits idle as Marines bide their time by knocking out endurance workouts and strength training. Marine officials said the gym will remain in place as drawdown efforts continue, meaning Marines will be able to continue to work out until they leave the base behind for good.

Brooks, with Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, said he’s in the best shape of his life, running daily with a mask that simulates the thin air at 6,000 feet in altitude.

“It’s rough,” he said. “But like anything, once you do something like enough, you’re going to adapt to it.”

That goes for the base, too; Brooks, who first deployed to Sangin in 2012, says he has watched it grow smaller and smaller, eventually losing water and power.

Cpl. Timothy Dykes, also from the unit, did pull-ups nearby.

“We make the best of what we can,” he said. “Strength is this key aspect of being a Marine.”​

NOW CHECK OUT: How combat is an endangered species in Afghanistan’s once most violent district >


Marines work out at the outd​oor gym at FOB Sabit Qadam. Officials say they plan to leave the gym standing when they withdraw from the region

Marines work out at the outd​oor gym at FOB Sabit Qadam. Officials say they plan to leave the gym standing when they withdraw from the region


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  1. Joseph Bathgate on

    The training mask this marine has on does not “thin” the air simulating elevation training. I can provide hard scientific facts that this mask is just a marketing scam. I would highly recommend removing such words from this article.

  2. Not that I don’t believe Joseph but I want to see the evidence, the hard scientific facts that this mask does not do what it claims. Thanx

  3. GoogleIsYourFriend on

    Way to do your research.. the mask does nothing worthwhile and certainly doesn’t train you for higher altitudes. This publication and that Marine are ridiculous for believing such fad scams that are proven wrong.

  4. True it doesn’t thin the air, but don’t get your panties in a wad…It restricts airflow requiring you to run off less oxygen, simulating a higher environment.

  5. Hey Joseph Bathgate…stfu. Nobody gives a damn about your opinion. Have you been to Sangin, or NowZad or Fallujah or combat? If no, shut up. If you have be THANKFUL you have the ability to complain about an article covering good people willing to continue the sacrifices they believe in. Semper Fi.


  6. Doc Edwards on

    If you think you have hard scientific proof that the mask does not thin air, well you would be right, but you would also be an idiot for thinking that’s what they mean. This mask is purely to limit the amount of breathable air readily available during periods of short intense exercise, also known a intermittent hypoxic training(also the misnomer “altitude training”). While it is similar to the effects of high altitude, this in itself is a liiiiitle bit different since lack of oxygen is only one thing you have to worry about at altitude. how do I know what this is? Well aside from being a 14 year FMF Corpsman I also have degrees in health science, physical therapy, and working on a degree in kinesiology. So in other words Mr. Bathgate, keep your opinions to yourself. A side note, Sgt. Brooks I would not recommend wearing that every time you make your 45 minute run especially in mid summer, take it from me brother the minute amount of positive benefits you get from hypoxic training does not outweigh the possible negatives that could occur. Limit the usage of your mask to twice maybe three times a week and never alone. Oorah.

  7. The mask also builds up CO2 in the dead airspace inside the mask, reducing the percentage of Oxygen (not by much but it’s worth noting)

  8. Gruntsauce on

    Oh Joseph, no one believes in science. And besides, your the idiot here. The mask isn’t for training anyways. He’s really اتسمت.

    That’s Arabic for Bane.

  9. Cmon Eric. Everyone has a right to their opinion. You may not agree to it but he has a right to give it.

  10. That mask doesn’t do anything like simulate “high altitude”. He wasted his money and many other people have as well. He’d be better off wearing his gas mask.

  11. Lauren Frost on

    regardless of all the debating I will like to give acknowledgement to Sgt. Sylvester Brooks for having such courage and ambition . If the mask helps him physically and/or mentally then it works for HIM. Pushing yourself to always do better and challenging yourself is what he likes.

  12. Common Sense on

    The mask is nothing but a gimmick, the SGT is setting an absolutely terrible example for junior Marines, and the SGT’s superiors are failing to lead because they are tolerating this behavior. If the USMC approved of such devices, they would issue them. The SGT’s behavior is poor b/c everything he does sets an example (in this case a poor one) for his jr Marines. If the USMC didn’t conduct extensive tests on these masks then they’re not safe for thousands of Marines. The unit’s leaders are failing to maintain good order & discipline. By not correcting the SGT, they have allowed an untested, potentially dangerous device to be held out as ? – a good idea? Bad all the way around. And, yes I’ve been in combat.

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