BABIL PROVINCE, Afghanistan, July 5, 2011 -- Contingency Operating Site Kalsu is often a dusty and uncomfortably hot place in July. Despite the dismal conditions, Soldiers and civilian employees came out in droves to celebrate America’s Independence Day with sports, food and relaxation.

Across the base soldiers were engaged in vigorous activities in 110-degree heat. Sand and sweat flew on the volleyball courts and the rhythmic squeak of sneakers chirping on the concrete could be heard during the three-on-three basketball tournament. Many others came out to simply watch the rivalries.

“Today, Soldiers around the base have the opportunity to play some games, have a picnic and just generally enjoy some down time,” said 1st Sgt. Kenneth C. Byrd, first sergeant of Regimental Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment.

Through the intense heat of the afternoon, some opted for the cool comfort of the Morale, Welfare, and Recreation center as they gathered around video game consoles, pitting their favorite electronic sports teams against one another. Outside, teams continued to battle for trophies and titles in the hot sun.

“This is really a great morale booster,” said Spc. Ashley Lloyd, a human intelligence specialist with the 66th Military Intelligence Company, 3rd Squadron, 3rd ACR. “We’ve all been here awhile, and we look forward to holidays. Even though you can’t celebrate with family back home, you have your Army family here.”

Lloyd was a competitor in the basketball tournament.

By early evening, as the sports wound down, many of the over 2,500 Soldiers on Kalsu who weren’t involved in organized sports were scattered around the base in small groups, enjoying barbecue and the company of friends.

After an exhausting last round, Lloyd described what the day means to her besides the sports and food.

“Independence Day is about everything the Army stands for,” she said. “It’s the freedom and the independence we have always fought for, and I’m a part of that.”