His question, however, led me to thinking about this post made on TaskForceMountain.com back in January.
Major General Michael Oates, the commander of the 10th Mountain Division, made a post on the discussion board portion of his blog at Task Force Mountain.com which spurred some discussion about the activities that Soldiers have in Iraq. Surprisingly, there were a few who groaned at the fact that Soldiers on forward operating bases in Iraq and Afghanistan get to partake in Wii tournaments, Salsa classes, and Texas Hold 'Em tournaments.
I guess that, based on the complaints, there must be a significant portion of the population that wants to return to the good old days of the Vietnam War, where Soldiers got to pass the time with drugs, alcohol and prostitutes. I thought all of those commercials on TV were supposed to get you to develop your "anti-drug". What if your anti-drug is a Wii tournament--which, by the way, can actually be quite a workout.
Before we deployed, I told my Soldiers that they needed to pick up some sort of hobby. In an environment like this, there's bound to be free time (just watch the movie "Jarhead"). I suggested to my Soldiers that, instead of wasting their time watching TV or playing video games--or worse yet, sitting around and being depressed--that they spend doing something productive. Really, anything would do. My recommendations were, obviously, taking some college classes online, reading, or working out. Basically, I challenged them to leave Iraq better than when they first arrived. Many of them will.
Keeping the mind busy is a great way to beat depression. If Soldiers want to spend their time participating in Wii tournaments with their friends, hey, it's healthy fun. If they want to hold a Texas Hold 'Em tournament, are they really wasting government funds? All they need are a few decks of cards and some poker chips--that's it. It's certainly no more expensive than a lot of other things the government wastes money on.
There are a number of different clubs and groups available on the larger bases--you can usually find Soldiers with any one of a number of interests gathering. For example, I like to run long distance. Thankfully for me, I can usually find a running event about once a month that will not only introduce me to new people, but also score me a free T-shirt. Best of all, the clubs hardly cost anything--they're usually organized by Soldiers in their free time.
If we're going to have a General Order Number One which bans alcohol, sex, and yes, even porn--which, when you look at American military history, is damned near unprecedented--can't our Soldiers at least fill the void with a Wii tournament or a fun run?