By Spc. Ryan Stroud
3rd Brigade Combat Team,
1st Cavalry Division Public Affairs
BAQOUBA, Iraq -- Halloween is a special time of year when for one night, you can scare the living daylights out of your friends and family members without getting in trouble for it. But what are you to do if you're a deployed Soldier in the 3rd "Grey Wolf" Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, stationed at Forward Operating Base Warhorse, in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom? You party, of course!
And that's exactly what these Grey Wolf Soldiers did, starting with the "Fear Factor Baqouba" competition and topping off the night with a concert from Madison Avenue, a melodic emo band stationed here on FOB Warhorse.
Soldiers paraded Warhorse in different costumes ranging from Spartans to Batman, all in hopes of raising morale and letting loose for one night of extreme fun.
The Fear Factor Baqouba competition was at the Wood Dining Facility, showcasing daring feats of gross excitement. Soldiers participating were asked to carry cold peas in their mouth to be spit into a water bottle, while others ate insects ranging from spiders to scorpions, all in the name of fun.
"We're doing Fear Factor, trying to push the limits of the Soldiers to see how [crazy] they can be and how far they can go, but also be safe, making sure nobody gets hurt in the process," said Sgt. Ramon Arredondo, 215th Brigade Support Battalion, and a native of San Antonio.
"We had to eat spiders and other [bugs]," Spc. Robin Bridges, 18th Postal Company, attached to 3rd BCT, and a native of Cordova, Ala., added.
"We also had to tote peas back-and-forth, that was our physical activity," she continued. "The other events were really focusing on the mental aspect of the competition."
Arredondo and Bridges both competed against each other during the pea competition. Arredondo, dressed as "Batman," jokingly taunting Bridges the entire time. With a tie from the race, both Batman and Bridges had to drink and entire bottle of a mystery liquid to see who the winner would be. In the end, Bridges topped Batman to take the victory.
"I think the drink was a mixture of pickle juice, apple juice and salt," said a laughing Bridges. "It was really disgusting! But, it felt good to beat Batman. He kept talking smack to me, saying I wasn't going to win because I was a female, and I beat him! But it was all in good fun. I had a blast competing."
Though Arredondo lost in the first round of the competition, he didn't seem to mind as long as he got some laughs out of the experience.
"I'm the type of person who will dress up to make people laugh," Arredondo said. "I try to bring morale to this place. If I can make one person laugh, than I've done my job; and if I have to dress up like Batman, Robin, Tinkerbelle, whoever, so be it. Anything I can do to bring up the morale of the Soldiers."
And Arredondo succeeded in his mission to bring happiness. He and his partner, "Robin," also known as Pfc. Michael Knight, B FMC, 215th BSB, and a native of Lewiston, Maine, both felt morale was high though the competition.
"This whole event did boost the morale," said Knight. "[The guys running the event] said they're going to send a tape in to the real Fear Factor because Fear Factor is showing an appreciation of deployed Soldiers, which is cool."
Knight also added dressing up and goofing for one night was just the ticket he needed right now while preparing to head home.
"Dressing up has made me a little bit happier, makes me look forward to going home [and partaking in events like these in the States,]" he said.
After the festivities in the dining facility winded down, Soldiers then flocked to the Salie Gym to hear Madison Avenue rock the stage with their passionate blend of acoustic rock with thundering backing drums and percussion.
"We're gathering up all the Soldiers on the FOB to listen to some good music and get out of that atmosphere of being away from home," said lead singer and guitarist, Pfc. Samuel "Gonzo" Gonzalez Jr., of the 571st Military Police Company, attached to 3rd BCT.
"Some of these [Soldiers] have just arrived here, some have been here for a year, like us, so we want to escape for a bit and feel free," he added. "Through music, we can really express ourselves and be free.
"We just want to have a good time and it's Halloween, so everyone's parting tonight," Gonzo said.
"I hope this is a stress reliever for the Soldiers," added keyboardist, Spc. Kyle "Lusy" Lussier, also of 571st MPs.
"There is so much stress out here – just a night to have fun and not think about where we are, to dress up in civilian clothes [or costumes], just having a good time in general," he continued. "As long as the Soldiers are good and relaxed, that's all that matters to us."
Madison Avenue's electric presence had the crowd of Soldiers dancing the night away, letting go of old demons and partying like there was no tomorrow. For the boys of "Mad Ave", this was just what the doctor ordered.
"This experience, it's wonderful," said lead guitarist, Spc. Brandon Couch, 571st MPs. "It really is because you're over here fighting a war, and we get to use our gift. To see everyone here jamming out to what we love to do, it's touching."
"Morale is very important to me," added Gonzo. "Without our morale, without us feeling some type of feeling here, we can't do our jobs. Doing this kind of stuff really brings up the morale and makes us feel like we're doing something good here."
As the night drew to a close and Soldiers headed back to their quarters, a feeling was in the air. A relaxed glow shown on the faces of the Soldiers, proof that morale was raised and the Soldiers stationed at FOB Warhorse were relieved, tired, yet refreshed.
"Events like these make me enjoy being here a little more instead of being so down all the time," said Bridges about the night's events. "I really do think this helps the Soldiers a lot.
"I enjoyed my tour here," she added. "I'm really excited because I leave [soon] to go back to the States. I feel this was a great way to top off the deployment."
This work, 'Grey Wolf' Soldiers enjoy fear-filled Halloween, by SPC Ryan Stroud, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.