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Marines cool off on Sunday-Funday

17 May 2004 | Sgt. Jose E. Guillen

Marines and sailors finally took a load off their shoulders and let off some steam Sunday since their arrival in Iraq.

Marines from Regimental Combat Team 1, 1st Marine Division, enjoyed the day's event dubbed Sunday-Funday, with sports events such as three-on-three basketball tournaments and volleyball matches.  The event was hosted by the camp's Rest and Recuperation Facility here.  The R-and-R center has been operating for nearly two months but for many of these Marines, it was their first chance to take advantage of it.

"This is good-to-go because it definitely gets our minds off the stress of the last three months," said Sgt. Steven Prieto, a motor transportation platoon sergeant for Headquarters Company, RCT-1.

"I hope we have more of these because some of us will be here for 14 months," added Prieto, a 24-year-old from Los Angeles.

A disc jockey blared music ranging from country to hip-hop to reggae and Marines and sailors were served steaks, hamburgers and beverages.  A talent show wrapped up the event, giving the Marines something a chance to laugh and joke.

"Everything turned out great because everyone's smiling," said Cpl. Derian J. Caudle, a 20-year-old from Whitakers, N.C. and the noncommissioned officer-in-charge of the Unit Movement Command Center for the regiment.

Master Sgt. Albis Delrosario, the facility's staff noncommissioned officer-in-charge, said the event allowed for unit cohesion, an important factor for the infantry Marines who have been spread out across the Fallujah.   The facility took some time to become operational including repairs to a swimming pool.  It was a priority for the Col. John A. Toolan, the regiment's commander.

"We served about 1500 people today," said Delrosario, a 42-year-old from Bronx, N.Y.  "Colonel Toolan gave me the green light to make today possible so the Marines can take a break from working hard to playing hard here."

It's more than just a place to let Marines relax, though.  It's therapeutic, and for some, a way to keep themselves focused on the mission.

"This place helps pull units together again by not having to work for a little while," said Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Justin G. Pearce, a 26-year-old from of Vernal, Utah.

Pearce, a psychiatric technician for the regiment, said the facility worked as a haven for combat stress casualties before determining if the Marine or sailor would return to their unit.

"A unit will send us a Marine for 72 hours," Pearce explained.  "So far we have a 95 percent success rate that a Marine goes back to his unit."

Pearce explained the Marines need to realize when they visit the facility, it's for their better mental health - because they're still warriors.

Delrosario said plans are in the works to rotate company-size units through the facility.

"We're going to have a company from each battalion here for at least three days to give them a break too, but we're still working on that," said Delrosario.