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Services Airmen keep morale high in Iraq

Airman Aaron Morrow spots a fellow Airman on the bench press at the base fitness center. Airman Morrow is a certified fitness trainer deployed from the 366th Services Squadron at Mountain Home AFB, Idaho to the 332nd Expeditionary Services Squadron, Balad AB, Iraq. (U. S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Michael R. Holzworth)

Airman Aaron Morrow spots a fellow Airman on the bench press at the base fitness center. Airman Morrow is a certified fitness trainer deployed from the 366th Services Squadron at Mountain Home AFB, Idaho to the 332nd Expeditionary Services Squadron, Balad AB, Iraq. (U. S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Michael R. Holzworth)

Tech. Sgt. Clifton Hundley repairs one of the Balad Cyber Cafe's computers. The cafe helps 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing Airmen keep in touch with loved ones and friends back home via Internet and telephone service for morale calls. Sergeant Hundley is a 332nd Expeditionary Services Squadron client support administrator and cafe general manager deployed from the 18th Communications Squadron at Kadena AB, Japan. (U. S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Michael R. Holzworth)

Tech. Sgt. Clifton Hundley repairs one of the Balad Cyber Cafe's computers. The cafe helps 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing Airmen keep in touch with loved ones and friends back home via Internet and telephone service for morale calls. Sergeant Hundley is a 332nd Expeditionary Services Squadron client support administrator and cafe general manager deployed from the 18th Communications Squadron at Kadena AB, Japan. (U. S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Michael R. Holzworth)

Tech. Sgt. Jack Thomas prepares 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing Airmen for a computer-based test at Balad Air Base, Iraq. He is the 332nd Expeditionary Services Squadron's test control officer. (U. S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Michael R. Holzworth)

Tech. Sgt. Jack Thomas prepares 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing Airmen for a computer-based test at Balad Air Base, Iraq. He is the 332nd Expeditionary Services Squadron's test control officer. (U. S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Michael R. Holzworth)

BALAD AIR BASE, Iraq (AFNEWS) -- Between aircraft sorties, mortar attacks and grueling long days for the residents of Balad AB and Logistical Support Area Anaconda, 20 Airmen of the Expeditionary Services Squadron are doing their part to keep them fit, entertained and ready for the fight.

"We're here for everyone else's happiness and good health," said 2nd Lt. Tiffany Castleberry, squadron deputy commander. "We really enjoy the fact we can help make life in the combat zone a little less stressful and bring out a few smiles and laughs."

In keeping with their motto, "Be Ready, Be Fit, Be Entertained," the squadron's Airmen toil daily to keep the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing Airmen well rested, in top physical condition and occasionally smiling.

Services' diverse missions include overseeing the lodging requirements of 3,600 Airmen, maintaining and improving recreation and fitness center facilities and programs, and managing and operating the popular library, cyber café and education center. As if this duty weren't enough, services Airmen also manage to operate the self-help laundry, organize and continually stock their warehouse and coordinate closely with their Army brethren to bring outside entertainment in to treat service members deployed here.

"Life would be a lot less pleasant here if no one were here to tend to these missions," said Maj. Anthony Lanuzo, ESVS commander. "As with every rotation, we never assume what we currently have is as good as it gets. We constantly strive to improve morale and readiness."

One place, services Airmen don't mind being, packed with a crowd is the new recreation center, which offers games, movies, refreshments and a myriad of programs and activities to put a smile on the faces of service members enduring the rigors of combat, family separation and grueling long days.

"You name it, if it puts a smile on folk's faces and brings in a crowd, we'll organize and put it on," said Staff. Sgt. Ken Fincham, recreation center supervisor. "The crowds really let off some steam during our recent Balad Idol contest. Between their cheering of the contestants and heckling of some of our judges, it's really a lot of fun and helps everyone forget about the stress for a bit."

But the services mission is more than fun and games, according to Master Sgt. Pierre Miles, the wing's education center test control officer. The center provides Airmen at Balad and dozens of forward operating bases the opportunity to further their professional military education, as well as administer DANTES and CLEP tests for personal education goals.

"We've administered career development course tests for Airmen at multiple FOBs, recommended eight people be awarded degrees and informed countless others they've completed PME necessary for career progression," Sergeant Miles said. "Very few people enjoy PME and education requirements, so when I'm thanked by someone for helping them 'check that block,' I know their gratitude is sincere and my being here is making a difference."

Making a difference is what Tech. Sgt. Clayton Callahan believes he's doing when he sees hundreds of patrons sweating off pounds and getting fit for the fight each day in the wing's fitness center. As the recreation and fitness center supervisor, Sergeant Callahan makes sure the wing's Airmen have a place to keep in shape and programs to get them there.

"I can't begin to stress how important it is to be fit in the combat zone," Sergeant Callahan said. "The equipment, weights and training programs we maintain and offer at our fitness center are the best I've ever seen in a deployed setting. With this kind of service, there's no reason for anyone to return home in anything less than top shape."

As the struggle goes on to help Iraq transition to Democracy, Balad's service team work hard to help Airmen press on with the airpower mission, fit for the fight and well rested. 

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