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Spc. Elayseah Woodard-Hinton, 20th Public Affairs Detachment
CAMP AS SAYLIYAH, Qatar - 12.31.2008
Located within the Arabian Peninsula, on the coast of the Persian Gulf, is a little known retreat called Qatar, where service members can take a few days to rest and relax while deployed to the Middle East.
Qatar is home to Camp As Sayliyah, where troops stay while visiting a country with beaches, shopping, dining, golf and year-round tropical weather.
Even with all the country has to offer the minor inconveniences that come with travel time and the transportation process to get there keeps many service members from going.
“There’s a couple of Soldiers in my unit who have chosen to take their four day pass [and stay on the forward operating base],” said Sgt. Victor Toldoya, who is currently deployed to Iraq. “I’ve had some bad transportation issues; but once I got [to Qatar], everything I’ve done in the last two days really makes up for the two days inconvenience it took to get here.”
Although getting to Qatar may be a hassle for some, the military offers a rest and recuperation pass program, in conjunction with the United Service Organizations and Morale, Welfare and Recreation, to help make Qatar worth the trip.
According to Toldoya, one of the things he enjoyed most during his first two days was going on one of the several daily trips offered by the R2P2.
Service members have the option of signing up for trips that offer an opportunity to get off post and experience the culture and scenery that the country has to offer.
Some of the activities include, a trip to Al-Saflia Island, where participants can enjoy a variety of water sports such as jet and water skiing.
“The most popular trip is the water sports because [service members] get to ride on the jet skis and swim in the Persian Gulf,” said Spc. Teddy Thelwell, R2P2 assistant, Area Support Group-Qatar.
Those who enjoy activities on both water and land can take advantage of the Inland Sea Picnic, where a caravan of vehicles chauffeur service members to a camp located next to the beach. Once they arrive, they can eat, play sports or rest in one of the furnished Arabian style tents.
“Once you get to the picnic area it’s awesome,” said Toldoya. “There’s volleyball, swimming and hookah pipes. It was a good four or five hours spent.”
Other trips offered by R2P2 include, a tour of the capital city of Doha, which offers a chance to learn more about the culture, shopping, and a trip to the Doha PGA style golf course or a cruise.
Many of the trips offer an entire day of activities, but for those that do not want to dedicate an entire day off post, there are many options on Camp As Sayliyah.
“I was really stressed out when I came over here and now I am relaxed,” said Marine Cpl. Dalton Vaughn, who is currently deployed to Iraq.
According to Vaughn, his first two days in Qatar were spent bowling, eating at Chili’s, watching movies and communicating with family.
The bowling alley and many other activities are all centrally located in the building that houses the “Top Off” area, which offers food and beer in a Bourbon Street-atmosphere. Here you can also find a large open area with pool tables, darts and a large stage where MWR hosts karaoke nights and live performances by popular entertainers.
The R&R building is also the home of a USO, which aims to provide a calm environment.
Everyone must take off their shoes before entering the dimly-lit, carpeted USO lounge where service members can play board games, X-Box 360 and Playstation 3; troops can also visit the comfortably furnished pillow room, where many people go to relax, sleep or watch a movie.
“We have Soldiers who come in and spend four days in the USO, a lot of times sleeping,” said Pamela Russell, duty manager, USO. “There are a lot of great opportunities for Soldiers to get off post and relax and do things, but a lot of what we are offering is just a little bit of home.”
The R&R, MWR and USO staff are focused on giving back to servicemembers by working to make their R&R a pleasant experience.
“This is very rewarding,” said Laverne C. Haynes, MWR director.
According to Haynes, many service members express that they are thankful for what they do for them, yet she respons with, “I am thankful for what you do for us.”