Sports at Joint Base Balad

There are countless sporting and physical fitness activities here. There are intramural teams (sponsored by various units) that play soccer, softball, and rugby. A quick look at the bulletin board in any gym shows dozens of classes on things from Yoga to Spin to Step, as well as a nice exercise program I’ve tried a few times called “P90X.” Here are some folks in a team softball game:

 JBB softball

The gyms here are well staffed with Indian or Nepalese workers who insure that the gyms are always very clean, even in this dusty, dirty environment. Speaking of which, it has not rained here since some time in April. It is starting to cool down a bit, especially at night. The middle of the day still gets to 110 or so (45 degrees C). But at least the dust storms are infrequent now. During June and July, the dust storms were pretty consistent every day, which had the effect of blocking the sun and cooling the temperatures down a bit. Now it’s just dry and hot. The other day, I washed my shoes which had become quite dusty, thoroughly soaking them. I put them out in the sun for one hour at 8AM, and they were bone dry when I came to get them. JBB in late summer has a harsh, arid environment, but somehow the animals all survive, and the farmers still water their crops from the river.

 Getting back to the subject at hand, there is an endless array of sports and physical fitness activities. Some people play softball or basketball constantly. I recently spoke with a guy who plays 4-5 softball games on both Saturday and Sunday, and I know of others who play basketball almost every day. I’ve heard it said that in a deployed environment like this, it tends to enhance traits or dispositions that you already have. If you like to watch movies, you’ll watch a lot of movies. If you like to work out or play a sport, you’ll do a lot of that. There may be some truth to that. Here are some guys playing basketball at the indoor court at 6:15PM on a weekday afternoon:

 Basketball

I was surprised at how well stocked the gyms are. They have a myriad of different exercise machines that will work out muscles I didn’t even know I had. There are free weights galore. They have a climbing wall, and racquetball court that I tried out for the first time this week. There are special events as well, such as a half-marathon scheduled next month, and 2-3 5k fun runs that happen every single month. These are a rich source of t-shirts that I’ve been collecting as souvenirs of my time here in Iraq. You’ve seen some pictures of such shirts before in previous posts, and if you are very lucky, I’ve given you a shirt as a gift.

 And here is something that amazed and astounded me when I first saw it last week: JBB has a golf driving range! It’s located near the entrance to the Holt Stadium. I don’t know how I missed this before, because I must have gone close by it a hundred times. The JBB golfing range is within sight of the base perimeter, and it has two lanes and a great many golf clubs and balls to hit into a net. Here is a picture of me trying my hand at this combat golf range in the early morning when I normally do my exercise for the day:

JBB Golf Driving Range

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