Joint Base Balad has two swimming pools. One is indoors, and you can go there year-round to exercise. It’s a nice pool, but mostly just for lap swimming. Then there is the outdoor pool that is only open during the warmer 6 months of the year. It’s quite a luxury to have such recreation services here on JBB. In fact, last week I was having dinner with BG Michael Lally and a funny statement was made. Someone was asking him how he liked having a pool in a war zone, to which he replied “Which one?”
I finally went to the outdoor pool yesterday. Sunday is the most popular day, and noon to 4PM is the most popular time. It was very crowded, and somewhat difficult to even find a chair. My friend Luke Bird and I (pictured) ended up with a nice view of the pool and the 3-level diving board. Several soldiers did clumsy dives off of the platform, while spectators cheered them on.
Many people played volleyball or other water games. Even a number of Ugandans come out to play. It’s a very large pool, and I think it was used by the Iraqi Olympic team during Saddam’s era for training. So the diving platform is actually built to Olympic regulations, I believe. My one complaint is that the water is highly chlorinated, and after a bit of swimming and diving, it irritates the skin and eyes quite a bit.
One thing I noticed is that nearly half the soldiers have tattoos, some of which cover large parts of their bodies. I think these are very unattractive, and a big waste of time and money. Quite a few soldiers disagree:
They play music, and have cold drinks standing by. It’s a chance to see people in a different environment, without their Army Combat Uniforms or even PT clothes, just beach wear! It’s a very pleasant way to spend an afternoon in Iraq. So with the movie theater, shopping mall, rec centers, and outdoor pool, you can see that life is really not so bad in Iraq, at least here at JBB.
(getting a drink while poolside)
(Me and my friend Luke Bird)
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