Looking for some relaxation? Try Iraq

army guys soccer

"Soccer Warriors" of the 1st Battalion, 87th Infantry blew off some steam in Kirkuk Province in 2008 // Staff Sgt. Ave Pele-Sizelove/ Air Force

Is your normal job taking up the time you could be using to practice your penalty kicks? Are you working so much at your assignment in the U.S. that you can’t learn new jujitsu moves? Well break out of that rut and get yourself to the world’s new sportsman’s paradise — Iraq!

Iraq is so placid these days that American troops stationed there have plenty of time to just cool out, according to this story in USA Today. Rather than loading up the vehicles and going out to crush some skulls, today’s forces sound like college freshmen taking eight credit hours this semester because they “felt like they needed some time to themselves.” They’re playing soccer, taking martial-arts classes, starting book clubs and doing karaoke.

(Although, a caution: Karaoke in the war zone can be haunting and poignant, rather than drunken and hilarious.)

For as much as U.S. troops enjoy not being in constant peril, they didn’t join up so they could debate Baudelaire at Balad:

Many troops express relief at the diminished threat of injury or death. Yet some say they have struggled with depression because they don’t feel like they are doing enough. Others say they are frustrated by the sense they’re being underutilized — particularly at a time when their comrades in Afghanistan are struggling to beat back the Taliban.

“It’s been hard to get used to how much things have changed,” says Army Staff Sgt. Wayne Kersh, 31, of St. George, Utah, who is on his third deployment in Iraq. “During the other tours, we were always going. You went on patrol, you ate, you slept, and then you did it again. You never had to think about keeping a soldier occupied.”

Then again, at least they’re on dry land… try being stuck on a ship for six months.


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