Test Fire Range
Organizers from the 1st Cavalry Division brought together Soldiers and civilians from Camp Blackjack and Camp Victory in a "Brotherhood of Bikers" gathering July 24. Admission was free to all, but for $5 attendees received a custom T-shirt commemorating the event as well as a raffle ticket for a chance to win one of more than $1,000 worth of prizes donated by various motorcycle shops around the Fort Hood area. All proceeds generated from the sales of T-shirts and raffle tickets benefited the 1st Cavalry Division Association.
Life on Camp Blackjack is improving daily. The people in the neighborhood (Yarmouk) are generally nice and really glad the Army is here. Not a day goes by that soldiers do not receive waves and smiles from children and adults as they walk and ride through the streets. The children mob the soldiers everywhere they go. They are looking for anything they are willing to give away. They mostly want candy or chemlites. No matter what language they speak, kids are kids. Yarmouk has about 55,000 people and there are about 23 schools within it.
Though a MWR facility did not initially exist at Camp Blackjack, the MWR coordinators put on events to help soldiers relieve the stress of combat. A different event is put on every other week. There was a flag football tournament called The Clash of The Titans and also The World Cup Soccer tournament. At the soccer tournament American, Estonian and Iraqi teams competed; of course the Iraqis got first place. It was a great opportunity for camaraderie between the different cultures.
Regular MWR events include the Friday Night Jam where from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. a DJ sets up some music for soldiers to just listen or dance to. Also, every Sunday at the same place and time MWR puts on an event called Jubilee for church goers to listen to their favorite Christian music.
Soldiers from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team crowded into the new building to see their brigade commander cut the ribbon to officially open their field kitchen. Col. Michael Formica cut the ribbon in the Blackjack Dining Facility Saturday, 03 April 2004 to signify the grand opening. Contracted chefs and supervisors from Buffalo Food Service, a subcontractor for Kellogg Brown and Root, were recognized by Col. Formica for their hard work leading up to the opening of the new facility. "The guys we recognized have been with their company since they opened up, when they were serving in trailers all the way up to this point," said 2BCT's top enlisted member, Command Sgt. Major Neil Ciotola. "They are selfless, hard working, and they are just wonderful human beings. They treat every soldier who goes through [here] with a far greater degree of respect than I would have expected from any group of civilians out here supporting us." After awards were presented, the crowd moved toward the center serving line where a large cake shaped and colored like the 1st Cavalry Division patch awaited. The colonel commended the staff on the beautiful treat for the soldiers as he took up a knife to cut the cake. "Traditionally this is done with a cavalry saber, but I wasn't able to bring one out here, so this will have to do", sais Formica while positioning a long kitchen knife. "And since we never do anything half-baked in the cavalry", he added, as he took up the blade with two hands and hacked the cake with two quick chops. The spectators laughed and applauded their commander. A special meal was laid out for the troops to enjoy. The menu included T-bone steaks, catfish and lobster tails. The importance of keeping Soldiers fed isn't lost on the Blackjack leadership. In fact, the importance of a good dining facility goes far beyond what ends up in a Soldier's belly. "One part of our history is something that we used to call the mess hall. Some still prefer to call it that, or an open mess," Ciotola said. "That's not to imply that the people who eat there are sloppy hogs... "What it is to us is a place where we can meet. It's a place where we can sit down and we can share a meal with our friends. What it is for us is the closest that we will come to what we call home," he continued. "You and I might not see each other for days on end because we have different missions, but we can look across the chow hall and share a smile. We can share our memories, our frustrations and our hopes. That's what this place is."
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