CAMP LEATHERNECK, Helmand province, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan --
With the physical, mental, and emotional toll stress can take on service members while they're deployed, troop welfare plays an increasingly important role as the service members deployed to Afghanistan serve out their seven-month and sometimes 12-month-long tours.
Military leaders have taken a number of measures to make sure the Marines and sailors serving on and moving through Camp Leatherneck have ways to release the tension that can build up while they do their job.
One of the more preferred methods at the camp is to pay a visit to one of the gyms where service members can work with personal trainers and get a little physical training into their day.
"I take part in Cross Fit Leatherneck," said Maj. Steve Shultz, a member of the partnership team for the 215th Corps of the Afghan National Army. "It's a group of people that meet up three times a day to work out, better ourselves, and help each other out."
The Milwaukee, Wis., native said even when Marines are tired after a long day the best thing they could do is pay a visit to the gym. Besides the weights, pull up bars, and dumbbells on display outside of the gym, there are number of additional weight training and cardio machines offered indoors.
"There's always someone in the gym and working out with them builds great camaraderie and espri de corps," said Shultz. "We can all come together and support each other and help one another through this year-long deployment. I love doing it."
Besides the gyms, Camp Leatherneck also offers several additional stress relievers at the Moral, Welfare and Recreation center.
"I'm not actually stationed on Camp Leatherneck, but whenever I get on a convoy that's passing through, I like to take the chance to visit the MWR and play some video games," said Cpl. Robert Barnett, a Brewerton, N.Y., native with 7th Engineer Support Battalion, "It’s good to get away and not think about the deployment for a little bit. You get to meet new people at the MWR and find out who else you're deployed with while enjoying some friendly competition."
More than just a few TVs and gaming systems are offered at the MWRs. They also offer several pool tables, computers with internet connectivity, and phones that can call back to the United States.
"I can call my family and we can talk almost everyday and I'll tell them a bit about what's going on and my day so they don't have to worry about me," said Cpl. David Pellegrine, an administrative clerk and Johnson City, Tenn., native deployed with the Operations and Manpower section of 2nd Marine Division (Forward). "It's kind of nice to just stay in touch and get a chance to hear their voices and let them hear that I'm okay."
Service members and other base occupants flock to the MWRs to get the chance to call or email and the lines grow long, especially in the evenings. Another feature offered at the MWR is an in-house theater room with a large number of couches, a projector, and a playlist of movies playing all day, everyday.
"It's my favorite way to just get away from being on deployment and whenever they show a movie I haven't seen yet then it gets even better," said Lance Cpl. Roger Ball, a casualty watch clerk with the Operations and Manpower section for the division. "When I'm sitting in the movie room and watching whatever they have playing on the projector, it almost feels like I'm back home in a small movie theater with my friends."
Due to the growing lines and crowds, several service members might not always get the chance to make the call home or get on a computer. To remedy this problem, Leatherneck now hosts wifi connectivity for its inhabitants.
"I love being able to get on Facebook with the wifi, and to get to talk with everybody and see how everything's going on back at home," said Lance Cpl. Alexander Vincent, a Temecula, Calif., native and combat engineer deployed with 7th ESB. "With the wifi, for a few moments, it's almost like not even being gone because we get to talk everyday. Our command has done a lot of great stuff and is working really hard to take care of us. I know I'm grateful and I'm sure everyone else and their families are too."