A Great Way to Support Our Troops!
[OK, slightly OT] Operation Yellow Elephant salutes U.S. Army Major General Rick Lynch, Commander of the Third Infantry Division based at Fort Stewart, Georgia, for his courage, vision and common sense in facilitating both troop safety [force protection] and morale while also allowing real Americans to Support Our Troops.
Rather than having young soldiers about to go to war risk accidents and worse by driving off post to socialize with the local community, he's created an on-post nightclub, Rocky's, where civilians are welcome and our brave troops can relax in a safe and welcoming environment. Here's how Rocky's got its name (scroll down to Report from Fort Stewart)
FT. STEWART, Ga. - It is Saturday night at Rocky's nightclub. DJs are blasting music, and the lounge is packed with people shooting pool, playing video games and drinking $3 cocktails.
On the dance floor, soldiers -- many of them days away from deploying to Iraq -- move to the sounds of hip-hop artists like T.I., Soulja Boy and Beyonce.
Cars are bumper to bumper on their way to the club, and the line to get inside extends around the building. This is the hippest spot around this rural area about 45 minutes southwest of Savannah, and it's no accident that it's on an Army base.
To address a growing concern about drunken driving among soldiers, commanders at Ft. Stewart spent $300,000 last year to convert an old sports bar into a thriving nightclub, where soldiers could party all night with civilians and drink as much as they like without having to get into a car and drive afterward.
"It's a great place to relax and unwind," said Spec. John Davis, 26, a Chicago resident who will head to Iraq in a few weeks. In Iraq, "alcohol is not something you want to make your best friend, so this is a good place for soldiers to come." [ . . . ]
Officials said Rocky's has helped curb the number of accidents while giving soldiers an atmosphere where they can relax before deployment.
"The No. 1 killer of soldiers [outside the war zone] is privately owned vehicles," said Jimmy McCullough, installation safety director at Ft. Stewart. "When we lose a soldier, it is catastrophic."
Rocky's has become particularly popular with younger soldiers. No uniforms are required here. It is one of the few places where soldiers in their late teens and early 20s can wear baggy pants, oversize T-shirts and athletic shoes. Except for the military haircut, they blend in with the civilians.
"Their jobs are the military but they want to have fun like normal people," said Julie Cortina, general manager of Rocky's and other clubs at Ft. Stewart.
For soldiers like Pfc. Brent Sciulli, 22, the club has been a reprieve from the rigorous training since he arrived at the base in early July. He said he enlisted in February, and in three weeks he will leave for Iraq to join the 1st Brigade.
"When we got here, the commander said we should stay on base and do our partying," said Sciulli, of Tampa. [ . . . ]
Operation Yellow Elephant salutes not only Major General Lynch, but also all of those of-age real Americans in the region who choose to Support Our Troops before they go off to war. We wish everyone concerned all the best.