Going beyond the gate with Outdoor Recreation
December 12, 2011
PRESIDIO OF MONTEREY, Calif. - There are few military installation locations that offer a more diverse range of outdoor activities than Monterey.
Whether people prefer camping in redwoods, diving in the kelp forest, getting knee-deep in powder or squeezing in 18 holes before sunset, Monterey's central California location is an outdoor enthusiast's dream come true.
If only a program existed offering easy access to equipment, helpful instruction, organized trips and transportation, and at special prices for military service members and DOD civilian employees.
Oh, wait, one does exist.
Nestled away in the lower end of the Presidio is one of the post's hidden gems, the Presidio's Outdoor Recreation.
The ODR Program, according to Army Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation website, offers "diverse, healthful, vigorous and comprehensive outdoor recreation programs while conserving and protecting wildlife, forests, wetlands, and other natural resources. High priority will be given to challenge-type activities that contribute to physical fitness and military skills."
Greg MacKrill, POM ODR Adventure Sports Program manager, recently led a diverse group of service members from the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center and the Naval Postgraduate School on an ODR-sponsored weekend beach trip to Ventura.
"We are always looking ahead and planning out what we can do for the [Presidio of Monterey community]," said Greg MacKrill. "We have an array of rental gear but we specialize in custom trips."
Upon arrival at a house so close to the water's edge that waves crash against its seawall, visitors were greeted by a large wooden sign hanging above an expansive rear window. The window offered a stunning vista of the Pacific Ocean. The sign said "Welcome to the Beach."
"We offer surf lessons for those who need them and offer SCUBA excursions for those certified to dive." MacKrill said, adding that he can accommodate groups of up to 15 people and tries to schedule a beach-house trip every month. "We give guests the option to eat at the house or go into Ventura for a little night life."
Casper Mortensen is a first lieutenant in the Danish Army studying foreign language at DLIFLC. He said he heard about the trips from MacKrill while eating lunch at one of the installation's dining facilities.
"I've been surfing a little bit in Monterey and was ready to try it somewhere else," Mortensen said. "Getting out into the ocean in the early morning is a nice way to start the day."
"The ODR trips are awesome. I don't know if [students] are aware of the actual trips they make. I think if more people knew, then more people would be going," said Mortensen.
Pfc. Deanna Sorensen knows firsthand the difficulties of encouraging service members with demanding schoolwork and additional military responsibilities to participate in extracurricular activities.
As the Better Opportunity for Single Service Members representative for the Army's Company D, 229th Military Intelligence Battalion, Sorensen addresses her company every week to inform them of activities offered for the weekend.
"We do our best to try and collect information and create events from Soldier feedback, but it is not easy when your company has more than 400 Soldiers," said Sorensen.
For Sorensen, it was her second time on the Ventura beach-house trip, adding that the ODR trips do more than offer a well deserved respite from class. They help create camaraderie.
"I think most of the students don't want to sign up for trips by themselves, but I already feel like I'm a part of the family," Sorensen said. "You bond with the people on the trip, getting on the same level and back to a more fundamental base."
Sorensen admitted though that the need to relax was a big motivator for her going to Ventura.
"After studying the language all week long into late hours, it becomes like a pressure cooker. You can't do that for too long a period of time," Sorensen explained. "Here I can relax and let it all go, leave my school thoughts in the van, and it never even enters the house. But, if you want, you can still pull out a laptop and study some vocabulary in a non-stressful environment."
Sorensen went on to describe exactly what she did to "relax" during her trip.
"I got to do a whole lot today, a little bit of everything," Sorensen said. "I woke up not too early, had breakfast, then went out surfing for a little while before going to another beach. There I went swimming and watched some really good surfers, while some other people went diving. I just got through kayaking and the day is not even over yet."
For MacKrill and the other ODR employees it was just another day's work, striving to improve the quality of life for Presidio's service members.
"Working here every day and seeing these students, I can feel the sense of pride in their country, especially during our time of war, " said MacKrill, who explained that all the ODR employees try to make the students' time here a little easier because the staff appreciates the sacrifices service members make. "I feel it is my obligation when people walk through [ODR's] doors to come out of here with something that they can take away and remember. "
Presidio's Outdoor Recreation is located in building 228, on Lower Presidio. Office hours are 10:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Monday-Wednesday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Thursday and Friday, and 8 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday.
ODR offers one adventure sports activity and one leisure travel trip each week, averaging eight programs a month. Winter trips will be one to two trips each weekend, ranging from one-day ski trips to full-weekend trips. Weekend trips go to both North and South Lake Tahoe. For more information, visit www.pom-odr.com or call 831-242-5506.