One of the reasons Joint Base Balad is a favorite to soldiers is the large number of recreational activities available, in addition to the shopping. JBB even has two pools (one indoor, one outdoor), and more interesting things to do than anywhere else in Iraq.
JBB has three major rec centers, and a number of other, smaller areas for recreation. There is the big East Side and West Side rec centers, on either side of the air field. These are large, 50,000 square foot buildings with computer games, phones, pool, ping-pong, and foosball tables. There is also the H-6 rec center, which has a small movie theater inside. In addition, there is the USO, and American Red Cross, which have areas to hang out and watch TV, or use phones and computers with internet.
Here is a picture of the exterior of the East Side rec center. It’s not much to look at, but gives you an idea of the size of the building:
The big rec centers have bomb shelters over their roofs, and Ugandan guards at the entrance to prevent suicide bombers from getting inside.
Because I live in H-6, I visit this center daily, but I also make it to the East Side center quite often also. Here’s the inside of the H-6 rec center, note all the airmen using wi-fi on their laptops:
Every rec center has a great deal of activities. If you’re ever interested, please visit the JBB newspaper website. Near the back, you’ll see a list of the full range of activities happening on this base:
(you may have to click on “publications” and then click on “Expeditionary Times.” This is the JBB area newspaper).
The activities include dancing lessons (swing, country, salsa, Carribbean, and R&B). They have Dungeons and Dragons. I am a member of the JBB Plastic Model club, which is a fun place to spend an hour once a week. If you like board games, here is a sample of the selection, although I’ve never ever seen someone playing a board game:
The East Side center has free popcorn, and it’s the only place the Ugandan guards can go to hang out, so there are often a large number of Ugandans here, playing pool or even playing video games.
Many people come just to use the computers. They have free wi-fi in the building, so lots of people come to use the internet. At the rec centers, the wi-fi internet is terribly slow, to the point of being un-usable. The wired internet terminals have acceptable internet speeds. This post is being done on a wired terminal at the H-6 internet center, probably the best place on base for speedy internet.
Lots of people come to play video games on the computers:
The rec centers are staffed by TCN’s (third country nationals), mostly peopled from India and Nepal. These folks earn about $400 a month for sitting at a desk in the rec center for 12 hours a day. It’s a lot more than they’d earn working in Nepal, apparently. They are always friendly and nice to the military folks who come here.
So like I said before, there is no reason to ever be bored. The rec centers, libraries, movie theater, and your job will take up all of your time.