By Spc. Sophia R. LopezJuly 21, 2008
CAMP VICTORY, Iraq (Army News Service, July 21, 2008) - Soldiers melt away stress in the steaming sauna; they lounge around the swimming pool watching one another leap from the high dive; some use the workout room to improve their bodies and their moods. The scene is similar to any resort.
Freedom Rest, located in the International Zone in Baghdad, is not a resort, but it is close. It is place dedicated to providing Soldiers a respite from the demands of their work here.
"It provides a place for Soldiers to relax and get away for awhile," said Sgt. Jeffrey Gill of the 41st Fires Brigade, who is the liaison officer for 10th Mountain Division.
Soldiers can visit Freedom Rest for their four-day pass. Upon arriving, Soldiers will check in, secure their weapon and receive a room. They must stay the whole four days for accountability reasons.
The rooms accommodate anywhere from two to 10 Soldiers each. Many of the two- and three-man rooms are reserved for upper enlisted or married couples. However, each living space has its own common area; each room has cable television and air-conditioning.
After an in-processing brief, a Morale, Welfare and Recreation representative takes Soldiers on a tour and informs them of the activities planned for the next few days.
Regular MWR events include a "Big Splash" contest in the outdoor swimming pool, sumo wrestling and karaoke. The Army and Air Force Exchange Service provides new release movies for the scheduled movie night. Freedom Rest also hosts special events throughout the year.
Along with activities, Soldiers can enjoy playing ping-pong and pool in the lobby; basketball, volleyball and tennis on the outdoor courts or just relaxing in the television room or video game room.
"There's a nice pool, bingo, lots of activities, 24-hour phone, internet and food," said Sgt. Shawna Mallory, a patient-administration specialist for the 64th Brigade Support Battalion.
Events go on throughout the day, and local vendors are on site to sell bathing suits, civilian clothes, jewelry and more. Vendors take cash only, but finance is available on day one of the four-day pass for Soldiers to take out casual pay, said Gill.
A Post Exchange and barbershop at Freedom Rest, open on days one and three, also accepts Eagle Cash Cards.
Meals are served regularly, but a sandwich bar, ice cream bar and pizza bar are also open all day.
"This place is pretty Americanized," said Mallory. "I liked it a lot. I'd recommend it to a friend for their pass."
(Spc. Sophia R. Lopez serves with the Multi-National Division-Center Public Affairs Office.)