CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait - Inside a building on Sledgehammer Loop, the smell of sawdust wafts through the air as patrons' sand their projects and others make the initial cut for their newest item. Near the back of the shop, various projects dry on a table after being stained or painted.
The U.S. Army operates the Camp Arifjan Woodshop program as a morale-boosting outlet for service members and Department of Defense civilians to gain new skills.
"The woodshop is a great way to relax and unwind, especially after a busy or stressful day," said Staff Sgt. Victoria Manigault, a contract manager with 408th Contract Support Brigade, Regional Contract Command - Kuwait. "When I am working on my project I am able to block out the rest of the world and focus on something that I really enjoy."
Service members and DOD civilians are eligible to utilize the facility free of charge.
Patrons of the wood shop are not required to have extensive knowledge of the tools or techniques of carpentry. A basic idea of what they want to create is all that is requested by the staff.
"I have never created anything from wood before I came to the woodshop, in fact I had never even touched wood like this before," said Manigault. "With the help of the staff, I have been able to make a lot of really nice things. I have created a couple of boxes with inlays for my husband, a mosaic jewelry box for my daughter and a vase for fake flowers for my desk, all because I found out about the woodshop."
The military encourages its personnel to do self-development, the mission of this shop gives the opportunity for service members and Department of Defense civilians to learn new skills by providing classes on woodworking tools and equipment and create
Learning new skills is something that should be highly encouraged, said Sgt. 1st Class Parker Wiley, an operations noncommissioned officer with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 244th Engineer Battalion. Going to the woodshop allows service members the chance to get out of the barracks. Being productive will not only help the time go by faster, but it can also increase morale.
"I have seen many people come into the workshop and gain confidence in themselves. They start to ask questions, wanting to understand more about how to shape the wood," said Robert McAllister, the Self Help/Wood Shop Supervisor. "Utilizing the workshop builds self-satisfaction and patrons are able to appreciate the hard work and effort they have put into the project."
Kuwait is a non-accompanied tour or deployment. This is normally a nine to twelve month separation for Soldiers. The woodshop is one of many activities offered to service members to ease this separation.
"Working at the woodshop has made the time go by much faster," said Wiley. "Picking up a new skill and creating things helps me cope with the separation from my family and friends."
"Service members are usually out here by themselves," said McAllister. "Being able to come to the woodshop and socialize with others, who also want to create, can put them in a better mood."
The woodshop's policy states that the patrons take the projects with them upon completion to send the item home or to place it in their rooms or offices.
"When I get home I will be able to show my projects to my family and friends and tell them that while I was in Kuwait, this is what I did," said Manigault. "Now I have a skill that I will be able to continue to practice and use after I return home."
Service members and DOD civilians are required to attend a class before utilizing the woodshop. The class is offered every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 4-8 p.m.
"I heard about the woodshop from one of my co-workers, so I decided to go and check it out and see what it was all about," said Manigault. "I lucked out and happened to attend the same day as the orientation class."
"Patrons can create simple items or intricate items, it's up to them," said McAllister. "As they become more proficient with the wood, patrons tend to want to create items that require more skills and techniques. We are here to assist them and we also have woodworking books that will enable them to get ideas for their future projects."
The woodshop is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. from Wednesday to Sunday. The staff is available to help patrons create their project and 10 feet of wood is provided free of charge once a month.
For more information about the Camp Arifjan Woodshop go to building number 313 Sledgehammer Loop, call 430-3131 or email firstname.lastname@example.org