Feature Article - March 2008
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Working With Warriors

Military Fitness and Recreation: Serving Those Who Serve

By Richard Zowie

Everything But the Kitchen Sink

Besides fitness and intramural sports, military bases also offer a wide variety of activities in the recreation arena. At the Presidio of Monterey, Calif., home of the Army's Defense Language Institute (DLI), one of the most popular recreation center activities is Internet usage and computer games.

"We're in a computer age," said Bob Emanuel, director, Morale, Welfare and Recreation at the Presidio.

What makes these activities especially popular at the Presidio, Emanuel noted, is that the rec center offers free Internet access as well as wireless Internet capabilities.

"We're seeing more and more people coming in with their laptops," he added.

The Presidio tries to keep up with the demands of its service members. Emanuel said that the staff will make trips to local stores to buy the most recent video games. "We listen to what the young troops want and offer them the activities they like," he explained.

Other popular Presidio rec center activities include billiards, table tennis, televisions, board games, chess and even Texas Hold 'Em poker tournaments.

"[The tournaments] have gone over surprisingly well," Emanuel said, noting that the recreation center plays an integral part in the lives of service members, since many of them are fresh out of basic training and boot camp. "When they come to DLI, the first couple of weeks they're on phase (meaning that they can't leave the base). These are the bulk of our patrons to the rec center. Once they get off phase, they usually head off base a lot since Monterey, unlike lots of military installations, is right in the middle of a tourist town with tons to do."

Lackland, according to Stanfill, offers outdoor recreation programs like horseshoes, as well as skill development programs including arts and crafts activities like painting, photography and custom framing, and even automobile maintenance, where a person can get advice on how to repair or maintain their vehicle. There also are video arcades, Internet cafes and cooking classes—a little bit of everything, in other words.

Shanaghan said that NAS Pensacola offers a little bit of everything as well, including free Internet usage, the latest Xbox and Playstation games, areas to play 8-millimeter movies, and televisions with full cable programming. In addition, there are many off-base activities, like trips to Disney World, Busch Gardens, New Orleans Saints football games, Atlanta Braves baseball games, whitewater rafting, sky diving, scuba and trips to the beach, local malls and local sporting events and concerts.

Pensacola is also home of the U.S. Navy's Blue Angels military aerial demonstration team, and NAS Pensacola offers homecoming air shows for the Angels.

"We also offer board games, card games and a library with a full selection of books and books on tape and CD," Shanaghan said. "[The recreation center] offers a chance to get out of the academic or military environment and relax with your peers."