Deployed 705th MPAca,!E+Soldiers get gift of golf
Sgt. 1st Class Justin Shad, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 705th Military Police Internment and Resettlement Battalion, participates in a long-drive competition at Camp Taji, Iraq, this past autumn.

FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (Dec. 17, 2009) -A,A Post leaders and a national charity have teamed to send a little cheer downrange for deployed service members of the 705th Military Police Internment and Resettlement Battalion.

More than 2,000 golf balls and about 40 golf clubs have been sent to the deployed unit in Iraq. By coincidence, the equipment should arrive around Christmas.

Joseph Hanna, founder and president of the New York-based Bunkers in Baghdad, wanted to send some golf balls to Fort Leavenworth's deployed Soldiers. Bunkers in Baghdad collects new and used golf balls and clubs to send to U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as to wounded warriors in the states. Hanna's donation of a few balls soon grew into a larger project.

The few beat-up golf balls the 705th had were serving double-duty as bingo numbers. 705th Command Sgt. Maj. William Hutchings confirmed that the battalion could use new equipment in an e-mail response to the rear detachment: "We have some old clubs sitting in the chaplain's office. They look like they have been used in a rock-hitting contest or checking tire inflation of an M1A1 tank track."

The battered equipment was used in a long-drive contest earlier this year, set up amid old blown-up Iraqi tanks that littered the forward operating base, which was once a national depot.

"The (long-drive) event had a larger-than-expected attendance draw," Hutchings said. "We had to limit the number of ball hits to three each due to the lack of equipment."

Paul Martocci, of the Professional Golfers Association of America and golf business manager for Trails West Golf Course, contacted Hanna again to see if he could do more. Hanna responded with more balls and golf clubs.

Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 705th, deployed in August to run the Taji Theater Internment Facility Reconciliation Center. The unit is currently in the process of turning the TIFRC over to the Iraqi government. Hutchings estimates the process will be complete in early spring 2010.

"Our primary mission is the care, custody and control of the detainees and TIFRC while ensuring that we treat the detainees with dignity and respect," Hutchings said.

The 705th's Soldiers and Sailors work 12-hour shifts within the facility with minimal days off. In their downtime, troops use a gymnasium near their living quarters. Additional services have been implemented with the help of people within the battalion.

"We sponsor an Army Combatives training team, bike spinning classes, PX90 (workout) classes, aerobic classes, yoga classes - we even have some of those padded sumo suits with the ring," Hutchings said.

Internet, American Forces Network, card playing and bingo are also available to help the warriors unwind.

"They don't have the luxury of being off for the holidays, weekends or (have) the ability to jump in the car and go for a drive," Army Corrections Brigade Command Sgt. Maj. Jonathan Godwin said. "So whatever can be done to add some normalcy is beneficial. Plus a physically fit Soldier is much more productive and is capable of handling more stress.

"A happy Soldier is a focused Soldier," Godwin added. "Hopefully the (golf) equipment will bring some happiness to them.

Staff Sgt. Marcus Lindsey, of HHC, 705th, said sports provide a constructive outlet to channel anger and frustration from the work week. He said he believes sports and recreation help make stress more manageable.

"My one day off a week is precious, so I do something I love - golfing," Lindsey said. "Golfing is something I have enjoyed for years, and to see a driving range as part of the MWR program here was a morale booster for me."

Lindsey said the golf gift will help sustain the driving range and afford Soldiers with an outlet for stress relief. Hutchings said that with many golfers in the battalion, the donation will be appreciated.

"(The donation) will add a part of home that is tough to simulate in the environment that we are currently operating in," Hutchings said. "Anything that will allow a warrior to take a minute and decompress is thanked by all."

Godwin said providing outlets to stimulate troops' minds and break up the monotony of work is vital for keeping them healthy and happy. He echoed appreciation for the golfing opportunity.
"Anything you can do to help keep the Soldiers occupied and keep their spirits up is a plus," he said. "Where the 705th is at, you can't look around and see green grass and trees everywhere. Golf is typically associated with beautiful courses with green grass and trees all over the place. So, if only for a moment, the Soldier can swing the club, hit the ball and imagine his or her ball landing on a manicured grass fairway or landing on the green, it is worth the effort.

"Not to mention, taking a club and whacking the heck out of that little white ball can be a very good stress reliever."

Martocci said golf can provide opportunities for Soldiers to recharge and re-energize.

"Just like (playing golf) here, it is a form of release," he said. "It is an opportunity to have a good time and be distracted from the serious nature of their intent over there."

This past summer, in partnership with Godwin, Martocci introduced the game of golf to several Soldiers, many them currently deployed with the 705th. Martocci provided about 150 enlisted Soldiers with roughly 40 hours of free instruction plus a free round of golf.

"We really transformed many of them into golfers," Martocci said. "It was amazing because, obviously the Army is full of tremendous athletes, and so many of these guys and ladies have never hit a golf ball, and they came out here and were terrific at it right away. It was something else to watch. You could see the sparkle in their eyes that they were hooked - now they were golfers.

Martocci said many who received the lessons have returned to TWGC, honing their skills for next season.

"The relationship between enlisted Soldiers and the golf course continues to grow," he said. "That's a focal point for us. Even though they are a smaller population, we have to let them know we're here for them as well and this facility belongs to them."

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16