Keeping Soldiers’ Spirits High as Temperatures Soar

By Kim FerraroJune 23, 2023

Keeping Soldiers’ Spirits High as Temperatures Soar
(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

Summer is synonymous with relaxation, a season of indulgence, when we let our bodies just chill (lying on a picnic blanket to soak up rays or to slurp up watermelon) and permit our minds to unwind (taking in low-IQ action-packed blockbusters and page-turning beach reads). So it’s no surprise that even mission-driven Soldiers with sand buckets of self-discipline to spare need a physical and mental break to boost their morale and resilience during the lazy, hazy days of summer.

Here are three Army bases where the importance of rest and recreation is well recognized as a means to strengthen bonds among Soldiers and Families as well as help them combat the fatigue brought on by brutally hot weather.

Down in sweltering Louisiana, leisure activities at Fork Polk are amped up to foster a no-sweat attitude. According to Porsha Auzenne, the marketing chief for the Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Directorate, the annual summer Salute to the Troops is the biggest event of the year, featuring concerts with well-known entertainers such as pop/R&B artist Jason Derulo, a mix of cuisine from food trucks, and carnival rides. The season also brings outdoor film nights and other diversions, including jaunts to Houston, with free transport. For those who want to flaunt their athletic ability, there are plenty of sports competitions—everything from softball to soccer to bowling.

While the seasonal heat is a constant enemy on this Southern base, Soldiers don’t have to battle it to have fun. “We host outdoor events and facilities that are sure to keep our Soldiers cool,” Auzenne says, “such as Slip ‘N’ Slide kickball; Toledo Bend Army Recreation Park, where Soldiers can relax and take a dip on our beach or rent a boat, canoe or cabins; Alligator Lake Recreation Park, for kayaking; and a choice of two aquatics pools.” Plus, there are a wealth of indoor entertainment options, among them a bowling alley; a rec center, with amenities such as gaming consoles, a movie theater with massage chairs and arcade games; and an arts and crafts facility, with events like paint nights.

“Our Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers (BOSS) program and Home of Heroes staff host events such as luaus, which promote casual dress for a more relaxed mindset,” Auzenne says.

As the mercury rises, Soldiers at Maryland’s Fort Detrick avoid a physical and mental meltdown by participating in resilience-restoring relaxation activities like a softball league and the July Fourth pool party. They also have the option of doing a four-day workweek by putting in extra hours on other days. And if they’re lucky, their commander will offer casual-dress Fridays.

“Life here does change for our families. Kids are on break, and family vacations occur,” says Public Affairs supervisor Lanessa Hill. “We offer summer camps for kids and have several events.”

Keeping service members from suffering serious seasonal ailments like heatstroke while training or working is a prime concern. According to Hill, “the Installation Safety Office and Occupational Health Office monitor weather conditions for its impact on physical fitness routines to ensure the safety of our employees and active duty. We have a full facility gym with an indoor pool that is used during designated physical training times.”

Those stationed at Fort Riley, in Kansas, don’t have to travel to Orlando for the amusement park experience because the base has an Outdoor Adventure Park, which features hatchet-throwing and rope courses, a climbing wall, a golf driving range and softball cages. One high point of the season is the annual Victory Week, which honors the 1917 formation of the 1st Infantry Division (stationed on the base) and includes several sports competitions and ceremonies. This summer the occasion will be more extravagant, to mark the Army’s 248th birthday, and include a rock concert and mini carnival, at which there will be varied and plentiful street food.

To give Soldiers the opportunity to better take advantage of traditional summer pursuits like boating and swimming (Fort Riley is conveniently located near two of Kansas’s largest lakes), the base allows them to leave early on Fridays of full workweeks, according to Steve Elstrom, director of Public Affairs.

But even during the most laid-back time of year, health is a top priority, one that the base addresses with a far-reaching program. “Victory Wellness is a comprehensive, enduring operation to make every Soldier, Civilian and Family member more resilient and stronger across the five dimensions of strength—physical, emotional, social, family and spiritual,” Elstrom says. “Through this initiative, units and Soldiers regularly focus on wellness.”

And wellness, unlike summer’s watermelon and peaches, is never out of season.

If you want to boost your readiness and fitness for summer, visit https://www.armyresilience. to schedule an R2 training session.