CAMP TAQADDUM, Iraq -- Currently, it’s a running joke by some Marines around this bustling logistics hub and home of the 1st Marine Logistics Group (Forward), that every day is like the Bill Murray movie “Groundhog’s Day” where each morning Murray wakes up expecting a new day, but instead he’s forced to relive Groundhog’s Day over and over again.
Many Marines here are deployed for seven to 14 months and work much longer and harder than they ever did stateside. In an effort to break up the daily grind the base operations center teamed up with the Morale, Welfare and Recreation department to add something different and help keep spirits high.
A number of activities from weight lifting competitions to billiards tournaments have been coordinated here, and on other bases throughout Iraq, in an effort to keep morale high and monotony low.
A recent hit with servicemembers here was a karaoke night held on St. Patrick’s Day in the camp’s main dining facility. The event gave the Marines, sailors and soldiers a chance to show off their singing skills and enjoy some entertainment.
“Overall, it was a pretty good night and everyone was entertained,” said Maj. Dawn D. Brown, the base operations officer.
At first things were slow with people being apprehensive to sing in front of their friends, but as the night went on there were some good performances, said Brown.
“I liked karaoke night because it was something different and something to laugh at. It was fun,” said Lance Cpl. Ariel Garcia, 20, an administrative clerk with the 1st MLG’s headquarters element.
The sentiment held by Garcia is exactly what base operations and MWR wanted to accomplish.
“We want to provide something to take their minds off the stresses of work,” said Brown, a resident of Pomona, Calif.
St. Patrick’s Day weekend was a popular time for extracurricular activities. After singing their hearts out at karaoke, servicemembers were invited to take part in a 5-kilometer run March 19, 2006.
More than 200 hundred servicemembers and civilians stationed here showed up for the challenge.
With not much else to do, Capt. Ty Phipps, a native of Coosbay, Ore., figured he’d participate in the run and showed up wearing a green leprechaun top hat and green Guinness T-shirt in honor of St.Patrick’s Day, he said.
Gunnery Sgt. Robert Porter, the camp’s Provost Marshal, took advantage of the fun run to show his Scottish heritage by wearing a digital desert camouflaged kilt.
“I hope (these activities are) an opportunity to socialize and meet new people. If one day is different from the next, hopefully someone’s spirits are raised,” said Brown, who urges people to check the unit’s webpage or read boards outside the dining facilities and MWR buildings for upcoming events.
Events like these are great for morale. However, while in Iraq, the base operations Marines and the MWR team must overcome challenges that seem simple back in the United States.
Quantity and accessibility to resources is the main hurdle that base operations and MWR face, said Brown.
Brown credits the help of the MWR workers, mostly civilians, for making her job easy and working with her to overcome problems that arise.
“The MWR employees have been fantastic about support here. They make it so easy I feel like I’m just the coordinator,” said Brown.
Recreational and morale building events in Iraq have made huge leaps and bounds when compared to other conflicts.
“In the Vietnam era we’d relax by going to the bar and have a few beers and a shot of whiskey,” said Master Gunnery Sergeant Robert A. Valenzuela, who served in Vietnam from May of 1970 to February of 1971.
“Back in those days there wasn’t much of a chance for fun,” said Valenzuela who has served multiple tours in Iraq.
As the Marines here continue adjusting to life while deployed, the base operations personnel and MWR hope to coordinate more events.
Upcoming events include more fun runs, sporting events, game tournaments and events that coincide with upcoming holidays.
“Any day that’s not like the day before is a good day,” Brown said.