Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Stars and Stripes asked servicemembers of all ranks to share their secrets for curing the deployment doldrums...

Work out: Keeping the body strong helps keep the mind strong, said Staff Sgt. Amador Guarionex, a tanker with the 1st Armored Division’s 1st Battalion, 37th Armor Regiment. “Working out actually motivates me. It releases stress and helps me get rid of all that aggressiveness after coming back in from missions.” Guarionex’s unit just got a weight set, but before that soldiers made their own with sandbags.

Practice your faith: Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, commander of coalition ground forces in Iraq, said laying his burdens before God is the key to keeping his own morale up. Faith is “the source of my strength in this environment. I reach back into it multiple times every day,” he said.

Stay clean: For Staff Sgt. Eddy Jones, a 1st Armored Division tanker based in Baghdad, there’s nothing better than a good scrub. “This place is nasty — dust, dead animals, you’re constantly sweating and getting dirty. But after, when you get a chance to clean off, your whole perspective changes. It really refreshes you. It’s like a burden’s been lifted.”

Write it down: Army psychologist Capt. Mark Houck, who helps treat combat stress for the 4th Infantry Division, said writing is a great way to purge stress and help clarify issues. “I’m a big fan of journaling,” he said...

Order things online: “I’m obsessed with online shopping,” said Spc. T.J. Kurczewski, a tuba player for the 4th Infantry Division band in Kirkuk. “I’ve spent $400 on Amazon in just the past month. Reading is my morale boost.” A quirky online vendor has also helped Kurczewski spruce up and replace some of the furniture looted from the room he shares with about 50 soldiers in one of Saddam’s former palaces. Sitting on a giant lime-colored inflatable couch, he said with a smile, “It’s great, we got it at Too bad we don’t have room for the matching easy chair.”

Count your money: Spc. Jason Ingle, a paratrooper with the 173rd Airborne Brigade, said money in the bank helps keep him motivated, and whenever he has the opportunity he checks his bank account. “That’s my biggest motivation. I just keep looking at all that money stack up.” By the time he leaves, he expects to have saved at least $20,000...

Help someone: For those feeling down, try focusing on others. “I try to make people smile,” said Pfc. Andrea Zimmerman, a 30-year-old nuclear, biological, chemical weapons specialist. “I’ve learned to focus on the positive. It’s mandatory when you come to my section — you have to smile. Smiling is contagious.”

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