DMA softball team gets new head coach

On military bases around the world, the arrival of summer means the start of softball leagues. For the troops between deployments, it’s a welcome opportunity to relax and hang out with friends and family.

Petty Officer Andrew Gordon is attempting to lead the Defense Media Activity (DMA) team to the top. It’s his first time as a coach, but he has a strong multi-branch team behind him.

If he can pull it off, the bragging rights are significant.

The Fort Meade softball league consists of 17 teams, and it’s serious about its business. It’s organized by the department of Morale Welfare and Recreation and the competition is friendly-but-fierce.

Gordon said the trick is to balance the experienced players with the noobies, and still be competitive.

“We’re here to have fun, so everyone will get into the rotation, but it’s important that we all show up to practice to work on our skills.”

As a U.S. Sailor, Gordon has deployed several times. Being out to sea, away from his wife and two children, is tough. That’s why he’s making the most out of his time on land.

“These are the best times, right now. I’m here with my family, friends, and we won!”

We “won” might be an understatement.

Final score: DMA 12 – Black Knights 1

Navy public affairs students hold Pasta Prom

Three words inspire dread in every junior enlisted service member: Death by PowerPoint. That program is used to educate Sailors on many topics, and alcohol abuse prevention is a hot one. On Fort Meade, Navy Mass Communication Specialists (MC) turned a boring command message into actual fun.

The idea was really simple. First, decorate the student detachment, or barracks. Then get everyone to break out their suits and dresses, cook a bunch of food, and dance. This is a creative group so  a catchy name was guaranteed. Lo and behold, the Pasta Prom was conceived.

Seaman Apprentice (SA) Sean Frank is an event coordinator for the Coalition of Sailors Against Destructive Decisions, or CSADD. It’s a Navy-wide program and its goal is to give students alternatives to alcohol. She organized the event, and said it was important to take time to unplug from the military, and their lessons at the Defense Information School.

“We work hard as students, and spend a lot of time together,” Frank said. “We’re like a family, so it’s nice sometimes to get out of the uniform and just hang out.”

The students will test their organizational skills when they host senior members of the MC community on June 30, for an MC 10-year anniversary celebration.

Fort Meade farmer’s market struggles with identity

United States service members have a huge array of food to choose from, but more choices don’t always mean better ones. To swing the influence away from fast food and over to fresh food, the Department of Defense (DoD) introduced the Healthy Base Initiative in 2013.

The Fort Meade farmer’s market was a direct result of that initiative. Looking around today, one would hardly recognize it from its first year. In 2013, it began as a collection of local farmers, selling all sorts of fruits and vegetables. Along side them were sellers peddling other homemade items, including bread, dressings and soaps.

Oh how times have changed.

Today, all but one produce stand is gone. The bread and dressings are nowhere to be seen, replaced by coffee, dessert and wine vendors. Nearby, several food trucks sell Greek, Cajun and other hot meals.

Sherri Council, the owner of Hope On Soap, has been here since the first year. She’s moved her booth inside the Fort Meade Pavilion, away from the wind.

There are only several vendors here, but incredibly there’s another soap seller directly across from her.

“I’m happy to come out and work here,” Council said with a smile. “I’m doing okay. In fact, I’m almost sold out today.”

Looking across the aisle at her competitor she adds: “But you have to wonder with so few vendors, why they’re duplicating product sellers like this.”

Perhaps there’s a large demand for homemade soap. There certainly doesn’t seem to be one for produce. While the food here is good and the vibe friendly, it may be time to change the name from “farmer’s market” to something more suitable.


Fort Meade troops rely on Freedom Inn

For young service members, separation from family during the holidays can be especially challenging. The award-winning Freedom Inn, located on Fort Meade, Md., prides itself on giving some comfort to those spending their first holidays away from loved ones.

This Memorial Day, junior enlisted service members from the Defense Information School filed into the Freedom Inn dining facility and grabbed dinner from a variety of stations. It was business as usual as young public affairs students relaxed and talked in small groups. On a day like this, however, it was about more than a meal.

The majority of the patrons here are under 25, and many are in their teens. A holiday like this may not hit as hard as Christmas, but it can still be tough. The old saying “An army marches on its stomach” has meaning here as well. It’s a simple equation: good food = good morale.

Wille Harmon is the Assistant Project Manager for Sun Quality Foods, and he paused from serving the students to talk about the pride he takes in being here year-round.

“This year, we’ve actually been here 366 days. We’re here to feed the students. We want to make sure they get a good quality meal. If you get that, you’ve got the motivation and the energy to keep going.”

The troops have a variety of fresh-made foods to choose from. The salad bar isn’t chosen as often as the grill, though. Many students grab French Fries then head to the burrito bar.

Harmon said the most popular food hasn’t changed over the years.

“Cheeseburgers, macaroni and cheese, a lot of cheese. I don’t know what it is about the young ones but they love cheese!”

The Freedom Inn will continue to work for these young troops, but there are other resources available to anyone who may be feeling down. The important thing to remember is that you don’t have to tackle the holidays alone. Reach out and help will be there.