The U.S. Army’s Outdoor Recreation program is celebrating 50 years of supporting Soldiers, civilians and their Families through morale building and the healthy lifestyle-oriented activities and services.
The first Outdoor Recreation, ODR, program was established in 1971 and since then, ODR has been providing programs and services around the world at Army installations.
ODR is a Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation program. FMWR is the G9 division of the U.S. Army Installation Management Command.
John O’Sullivan, the U.S. Army ODR program director, said ODR has been running successfully for five decades due to the benefits of the program.
“ODR’s mission is to teach outdoor skills and leisure activities which improve overall quality of life,” said O’Sullivan. “The fact that ODR has been maintained for 50 years, and continues to build, is a reason to celebrate. ODR has earned recognition through achievements.”
O’Sullivan said quality of life has been improved through ODR because it provides a different perspective for Soldiers.
“They can get away from their normal environment, develop new skills and learn about lifetime leisure programs,” said O’Sullivan. “ODR gets them outside in the fresh air and gives them the opportunity to enjoy nature.”
In addition to outdoor activities, ODR facilities include parks and picnic areas, equipment checkout centers, RV campgrounds and cabins, marinas, stables, kennels, shooting and trap and skeet ranges, paintball fields and challenge courses.
ODR also provides introductory instruction and participation for camping, climbing, hiking, biking, hunting, fishing, boating, ski and snowboarding, horseback riding, and many other activities.
O’Sullivan has been working with ODR for 33 years and has seen many great developments including the warrior adventure quest, WAQ.
WAQ is a training tool designed to introduce Soldiers to activities that serve as alternatives to aberrant behaviors often associated with accidents involving recently re-deployed Soldiers. This tool presents coping outlets to help Soldiers realize their own new level of normal after deployment.
“We run about 25,000 Soldiers through the program in a year,” said O’Sullivan. “The WAQ really emphasizes the epitome of ODR. It provides a method that helps with resiliency and provides an outlet for stress while being team oriented.”
Daniel Gasparino, recreation branch chief for IMCOM-Europe, started working with ODR in 1978.
“I was fortunate to be working with ODR at a time when it was growing, and I had an opportunity to influence its progression,” said Gasparino. “ODR took many different forms. Every garrison was doing something different and exciting as new sports come about.”
Gasparino recalls when snowboarding was invented and they introduced it at their ODR program in Europe.
“My director saw snowboarding at an exposition and he brought us aboard,” said Gasparino. “We all thought, ‘You have got to be kidding me, this is like a skateboard on the mountains.’ It was a hit, though, and the next year we added it to our program.”
Gasparino said that one of the great things about ODR is getting to introduce these new sports and opportunities to Army communities in a safe and fun environment.
ODR programs offer various activities and services based on their locations.
“ODR takes advantage of the local environment and climate,” said Gasparino. “In Germany and Europe there are the Alps for skiing and hiking. In the Mediterranean area you have the sea, lakes and rivers for water sports. Every aspect of the environment is your playground if you use it properly.”
To celebrate 50 years, local ODR programs will be holding events to showcase the opportunities available through their garrison. Patrons will be able to see the greater benefits to morale, comprehensive fitness, and overall well-being.
Events will adhere to safety guidelines, including applicable pandemic rules and restrictions.
An outdoor adventure photo sweepstakes will be held June 1 to Sept. 7 across Army MWR and ODR social media accounts.