Aero clubs offer service members and their families, along with retirees and Defense Department civilians, the opportunity to learn to fly through courses certified by the Federal Aviation Administration.
Aircraft can be rented for pleasure or travel to temporary duty stations. The clubs also sell flying-related accessories.
The services operate numerous swimming pools, beaches, lakes and water slides for the recreational enjoyment of service members and families. Many offer swimming lessons and other programs.
ARMED FORCES RECREATION CENTERS
The military operates five Armed Forces Recreation Center resorts at popular vacation spots. AFRC room rates vary and are based on a sliding scale that favors junior enlisted members.
For example, service members in paygrades E-1 to E-5 pay as little as $95 a night at Shades of Green, the AFRC resort at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla.
Other AFRCs include the Hale Koa in Honolulu, the Dragon Hill Lodge in Seoul, South Korea, and the Edelweiss Lodge and Resort in Garmisch, Germany. The resort newest to the AFRC family is the Cape Henry Inn and Beach Club at Fort Story, Va. Reservations can be made directly with the AFRCs, as well as online. Discounts are available for service members on rest-and-recuperation leave from Operation Enduring Freedom.
The Army operates the AFRCs, but the facilities are open to all service branches.
Contact: AFRC resorts (MWR website), www.armymwr.com. The site provides detailed reservation information, including phone numbers.
The Air Force has an alliance with Keystone Resort in Colorado's Rocky Mountains to offer military discounts at Rocky Mountain Blue, with a variety of lodging options and recreational discounts. Call toll-free 866-768-2583, email: RMBinfo@usafa.af.mil or visit www.rockymountainblue.com.
ARTS AND CRAFTS
These centers have studio and shop equipment and offer classes in photography, painting, drawing, woodworking, picture framing, ceramics, pottery, stained glass, stamping, sewing, flower arranging, computer graphics and more, depending on the installation.
Centers also operate craft supply stores and offer services such as custom framing and engraving.
These centers provide work space, shop equipment, tools and professional advice and instruction for self-directed automobile repair and maintenance. Automotive skills programs promote learning by doing. They offer scheduled classes and informal one-on-one instruction. Service members can save money by learning to do simple maintenance.
Most centers sell automotive-related products and supplies, and many operate car washes.
Bowling centers offer open play and league bowling, youth programs and services such as bowling instruction, bowling items for sale, video arcades, billiards, and food and beverage service. Birthday parties and an assortment of other family-oriented activities are available.
Most installations offer the use of clubs for social activities and official functions. Most clubs sell food and beverages, and also provide facilities for events and entertainment. Many serve all ranks and offer a variety of activities.
Many installations have moved away from the "club" concept and instead have opened theme restaurants, sports bars and pizza outlets for casual family dining and entertainment.
With the expansion of privatized housing on or near military installations, many developers are building community centers within housing areas, with kitchens and large seating spaces. These centers, operated by the housing management company, are often available for parties and gatherings.
Internet access is important to the military community, so some installations have opened cyber cafes in their recreation centers. These facilities allow people without personal computers to surf the Web and check email, either for free or for a nominal fee based on hourly access. Drinks and snacks often are sold nearby.
Cyber cafes that provide access to email, distance-learning opportunities and the Internet are available at all major troop locations in Afghanistan and Kuwait.
Many fitness centers are equipped with state-of-the-art treadmills, elliptical and total-body trainers, steppers, stationary bicycles and weight machines. Group exercise programs are offered at many locations to supplement individual conditioning programs. Officials are working to improve fitness facilities and programs across the services.
Fitness programs deploy with the troops, too. Fitness and recreation facilities are at locations in Kuwait and Afghanistan.
Golf facilities include courses for open play and tournaments, driving ranges and golf instruction. Pro shops have golfing items for sale, equipment fitting and food and beverages. Junior golf instruction is offered at most courses.
Golf courses are funded from user fees and must be financially self-sufficient.
Defense officials are encouraging the services to offer high-adventure recreational programs such as rock climbing, caving, hang gliding, kayaking, paintball, skiing, snowboarding, motorcycle racing, mountain biking, surfing and white-water rafting. These high-adrenaline activities can offer a safe and healthy way for service members to deal with stress when returning from a deployment. Specific programs and services will vary by installation.
Libraries support voluntary education, career transition, professional military education and family activities. They provide research assistance, books, journals, electronic resources, videotapes and other items for loan, as well as Internet access.
Library services are increasingly provided to deployed forces.
Library services also are offered via the Internet to benefit those who don't live near an installation library or are deployed. Defense and service officials have pooled their resources to offer books in a variety of formats, including Playaways, paperbacks and digital books. Some of the online library offerings include reference centers for auto and small engine repair, as well as home improvement; an education/lifelong learning resource center; "Dummies" guides; more than 6,000 tech books and 1,356 business books online in a searchable database of e-book content; NetLibrary, a custom collection of e-books and downloadable audiobooks; and the TumbleBookLibrary of e-books for kids ages 4 to 12.
Contact: www.militaryonesource.com; under "Resources" on the right, click "More Resources," then "DoD MWR Online Libraries."
Many installations have movie theaters offering reduced ticket prices for movies shown a few weeks after their release in commercial theaters.
The services' morale officials also send "theater in a box" kits to deployed troops in combat zones and aboard ships.
These programs provide structured or self-directed activities such as archery, hunting, fishing, rappelling, in-line skating/hockey, hiking, backpacking, bicycling, mountain biking, boating, canoeing, camping, and water and snow skiing. Certified instructors offer seasonal instruction at all skill levels.
Many installations have parks and picnic areas with barbecue pits, pavilions, game fields, fitness trails, nature centers and playgrounds. Some locations have water parks and miniature golf courses.
Marinas offer boats and equipment for rent, private berthing and food and beverage services. There also are lakes, such as American Lake at Fort Lewis, Wash., and beaches, such as the one in Destin, Fla., operated by Fort Benning, Ga.
These centers provide physical, social, personal, self-development, leisure and education-related activities, ranging from classes and information resources to club meetings and promotion/retirement parties.
Community involvement programs include lectures, exhibits, cultural exchange activities and carnivals. Centers offer competitive indoor sports, classes and meeting spaces. Some are near roller-skating rinks, fitness centers and snack bars.
Many installations offer recreational lodging facilities as a travel option. The facilities may consist of cabins, cottages, trailers, trailer or RV parks with hook-ups or campgrounds.
In addition, travelers may stay on a space-available basis in official lodging facilities. Rates vary.
Recreation equipment for rent typically includes gear for outdoor activities such as camping, boating, skiing and snorkeling.
Service members will find something of interest at most installations, whether it's a softball field, a volleyball or racquetball court or a swimming pool.
There are opportunities for team and individual sports at intramural, all-service and armed forces levels.
Those with exceptional talent may qualify to apply for elite athlete programs of their service with competition at the national, international and Olympic levels.
Secondhand stores on many installations allow service members, retirees and families to buy and sell used items. Thrift shops are good places to find used computers, curtains for odd-size windows, children's clothes or that extra set of brass buttons.
Sellers receive money from the sale, minus a percentage (typically up to 25 percent) that goes to support programs such as scholarships for military families.
The shops are managed by spouse clubs or other volunteer groups. Family center personnel generally can provide information about store locations, hours and phone numbers.
TICKETS AND TOURS
Many recreation programs provide tours to local historic spots, offer free or discounted tickets to theaters and sporting events, arrange group ski trips and send busloads of residents to shop at outlet stores and other centers.
These are offered at reduced military rates, giving customers significant savings over industry gate prices. They provide extensive information about local and national discounts for recreation, vacations and entertainment.
Some are specially designed for those on R&R from the combat zones or returning from combat-zone deployments.
Through the YMCA Outreach program, Armed Services YMCA is contracted by the Defense Department to offer free YMCA family memberships at local participating YMCAs throughout the U.S. and Puerto Rico, for families of deployed National Guard and reserve personnel and active-duty members assigned to independent duty who do not have access to installation morale, welfare and recreation programs. Wounded service members assigned to a community-based warrior transition unit also can join the YMCA to help in their recovery and encourage family recreation throughout the recovery period. Free "child watch" may be provided.