As anyone who's had to perform military service in a warzone knows, overseas deployments tend to involve hard work and long working hours. But the down time can be just as intense, with many of the troops turning to video games and pirated DVDs to keep their minds from drifting wistfully homeward while they're away.
A few Afghanistan-deployed airmen have come up with a creative approach to combatting downtime boredom on their deployments by building an R/C car race track and rock crawling pile at Bagram Air Base just north of the country's capital city of Kabul.
Since the brass isn't too keen on military personnel hooning government-owned vehicles, what better way for warzone-bound gearheads to keep smiles on their faces than to thrash the crap out of radio controlled cars? Welcome to the Combat Search and Rescue team's Rescue-Racing Morale Park, a soldier maintained 12-car course used by troops from a number of different armies.
It goes without saying that getting the materials and equipment necessary to build the facility was difficult. The military is not unlike a small socialist country in terms of bureaucracy — supplies can be scarce and tightly regulated. But a handful of dedicated folks were, in true military fashion, able to scrounge up what they needed. All it took to get everything up and running was 12 dump truck loads of dirt donated from a local contractor and a lot of off duty man hours from a handful of enthusiasts.
They really got into the sport, providing radio-controlled cars, monster trucks and buggies that people could borrow for a little bit of friendly competition. Throw in some South Korean army guys and a track at Camp Phoenix in Kabul, and the little cars make for an international event.
Of course, the needs of the service prevail and the track CSAR built in early 2011 had been demolished by an army unit to make way for a more official facility by the time they began gearing up for another tour a year after coming home from the last one. But now that they have the process down pat, RCTech commenter hrforsale, also known around the base as Hunter Rains, said that he already has a crew assembled to construct a newer, better track.
In the meantime, R/C cars intended for civilian use are making their way to units tasked with finding and diffusing improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Checkpoint guards have been big fans, because they can use R/C cars with GoPro cameras mounted on them to look under real cars instead of getting close and putting themselves in harm's way. Better that a toy truck sets off a bomb's trip wire than a living, breathing person who would undoubtedly like to get home to loved ones in one piece.
So while running R/C cars for fun is a good way to blow off steam, it seems that it can also serve a very useful purpose. Namely, getting people used to driving them so that they can be employed in soldiering's more dangerous aspects. Someone on the RC Tech forum also came up with the novel idea of getting interested Afghans involved in the races to help close the gap between the two very different cultures. It hasn't happened yet, but it sounds like there's a possibility that it could. Rains said it has caught their attention.
The locals don't race yet, but they definitely love to watch.
In a perfect world, they'd find a way to get the Taliban into it, too, and settle everyone's differences at the R/C car track.
Photo credit: Rescue-Racing CSAR/Facebook