By Sgt. Anna PongoMarch 13, 2017
Soldiers deployed to Baghdad, Iraq, get creative as they come together to create morale building breaks from work.
After the long days, or nights, of work, servicemembers need a few hours to relax and destress. For U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Anna Knopes, operational contract support integration cell noncommissioned officer in charge, Combined Joint Forces Land Component Command-Operation Inherent Resolve, and some of her friends, this is accomplished with a crackling fire and some melted marshmallows.
"It's nice to break up the week and something to look forward to," Knopes said. "And s'mores are good for everyone's health," she added jokingly.
Knopes and a friend discovered a fire pit by the USO not long after beginning their nine-month deployment to Iraq. After the first week enjoying the bonfire it was a unanimous decision that they needed to add s'mores to the evening, Knopes said.
"I asked my aunt to send me some s'more making supplies, and she sent enough to last us for months," Knopes said. "Then we decided to make it a weekly thing."
Knopes, along with many of the servicemembers at Union III, works around 12-15 hours a day. With those hours, she's discovered it's nice to have something to look forward to on Thursday evenings.
"It's probably hands down the most exciting day of the week," Knopes said. "We count down the days till Thursday."
"It reminds me of being home sitting around a camp fire and having fun with my family," said Staff Sgt. Aaron Kaufman, Embassy Air liaison officer, CJFLCC-OIR. "It feels like I am able to get away and it is something to look forward to in a place where the daily life is very repetitive."
The bonfire started with a couple friends from the Main Command Post - Operational Detachment, an Army National Guard out of Nebraska attached to the 1st Infantry Division. As word of the s'mores got out it quickly grew to include members of other units and Coalition partners.
This dynamic group revealed something that Knopes hadn't realized she said. Their Coalition friends didn't know what s'mores were.
"Turns out that s'mores are American, and I had no idea," said Knopes. "So here I was offering a s'more to some Italian Coalition forces, and they had no idea what it was and I was blown away!"
The Thursday evening event is important for more than just those with a sweet tooth, said Staff Sgt. Michael Iverson, J32 Army movement request cell noncommissioned officer in charge, CJFLCC.
"In my opinion, relaxing here in a combat zone is important for us mentally and physically," Iverson said "I think that for us to decompress after a day of pressure and fast paced work environments is important to stay alert and to stay healthy."