Soldiers Create Home Away From Sand

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CAMP BUEHRING, KUWAIT -- With a grain of inspiration and their own grit, South Carolina Army National Guard Soldiers have created a sanctuary from the blowing desert sand.

In fact, it was dust and sand that spurred the 4th Battalion, 118th Infantry Regiment Soldiers to turn an empty tent into a spacious dayroom for the unit, complete with amenities like televisions, tables, chairs, sofas, games, books, a grill, a refrigerator and a freezer.

"I came up with the idea because of the dust storms," said battalion Command Sgt. Major Rick Turner, of Moncks Corners, S.C. Creating a dayroom near where most of the battalion Soldiers live saves them from walking to camp recreational facilities during the storms, he explained.

Though a half-dozen Soldiers on the battalion's dayroom committee were integral to the project, creating the dayroom was a battalion effort, Turner said.

The battalion assumed security force and camp operation missions in Northern Kuwait in mid-April. Working and living in Kuwait means coping with sand and dust storms, like the nearly 60 mile-per-hour, stinging, mouth and eye-drying whopper that blew through camp the night of May 3.

These storms are known in the region by their Arabic names: "Haboob," which means strong wind, and "shamal" which means north wind. Heat also discouraged Soldiers from using the recreational facilities, said Sgt. William Ortiz, a C Company Soldier on the dayroom committee.

"They just want to stay indoors," said Ortiz, who is from Mount Pleasant, S.C.

Crowded conditions at the other camp recreational facilities are a factor as well, and Soldiers' leisure time is precious, said Sgt. Roger Ceasar, a Headquarters and Headquarters Company Soldier on the dayroom committee.

"This is something we needed to do," stressed Ceasar, who is from Hemingway, S.C.

After the battalion confirmed the commitment of its company commanders and first sergeants, he and committee Soldiers scrounged amenities from battalion units and other sources, Turner said. Though the project took about two months from conception to inception, the final piece -- getting the use of the tent -- fell into place about two weeks prior to the dayroom's opening on Aug. 25, he added.

"Once we got the tent, things moved relatively quickly," Turner said.

Ortiz was overwhelmed that the dayroom came together so fast.

"It's a great feeling," Ortiz said. "It's not even a minute to get here. This place is close, so people will want to come out and socialize with others."

That was evident during the dayroom's opening, which included a meal, cake, and ribs barbecued by dayroom committee members. However, there was little formality to the event. Soldiers strolled in and began watching TV, playing cards, accessing the internet via their computers, or simply hanging out.

There was also music at the opening, courtesy of Spc. Clayton Smith and his sound system. Music brings people together, he explained, adding that the dayroom is a stress reliever.

"It's a place where they can get away from the heat, listen to the music, and relax," said Smith, of Queens, N.Y.

It's that and more, Ortiz stressed.

"It's like having a place in Kuwait where we can be together," he said. "We're not at home, but this is our place, here in Kuwait."

Battalion Soldiers will offer the dayroom and their other mission innovations to the unit which relieves them at the end of the deployment.

"Hopefully they'll be able to maintain it and make it better," Turner said.

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