We started this program in 2006 with a column I wrote about an old high school friend, Army Reserve chaplain Capt. David Sifferd. When I exchanged e-mails with Dave, I asked him what he needed over there. Instead of the expected sweat-socks-and-magazines answer, Dave asked for golf gear that stressed, weary troops could use to blow off some steam in down hours.
I put out the call to TGC viewers and Web readers. As expected, they ponied up happily and often, and they're not done yet. Here's what Capt. Hartman has to report:
I just wanted to drop you a line and provide an update on the Baghdad Driving Range.
We greatly appreciate all the support that this range has received. When Chaplain Sifferd went home, First Sergeant Merritte, Command Sergeant Major Lankford, and myself took over the range. The Command Sergeant Major and I are both from the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Battalion (the bomb squad) that is next to the PSYOPs unit.
We have worked tirelessly to expand and improve the range and we have received an incredible amount of support for the range. I have been truly amazed by what has been given to us.
Sadly about two months ago, Command Sergeant Major Lankford, a man in peak physical condition in the prime of his life, died of a heart attack while doing Physical Training. This weekend we dedicated the range to him. We had the assistance of six great golfers to help us out with this. The USO put together a tour of golfers and when they stopped in Baghdad, they helped us out. We had David Feherty, Tom Watson, Butch Harmon, Joe Inman, and several others here to help. I have attached a couple of pictures. It was a great event.
Thanks to some great donations we now have enough balls to keep us going for a long time. We can always use range maintenance equipment like ball shaggers and ball buckets. We are very healthy on irons, but we are hard on woods, hybrids, and drivers. Those are always appreciated.
I am rotating home soon, but this range will live on. It averages over 1000 people a month hitting. We pick up over 10,000 balls every Saturday. I can not thank everyone enough.
CPT Jim Hartman
79th OD BN (EOD)
Assistant Operations Officer
Chaplain (CPT) Tim Kersten
APO AE 09342-2061
And on the home front:
I wanted to say that I enjoyed seeing your article, the photos and the video about the driving range in Iraq. I am very happy to know that the driving range in Iraq is such a success.
My husband has been at Camp Victory for one month. He was at the dedication of the driving range this past weekend. He enjoyed meeting the PGA players who were at the dedication.
This touches my heart because our whole family plays golf together. My husband Ken and I play golf together as often as we can. Our two boys who are 10 and 9 play golf and our daugther who is 5 is learning to play.
Even though Ken is away, I am glad to know that he can still practice at the driving range to keep his game going. Thank you for the time and effort you give to support my husband and all the soldiers in Iraq.
Thanks again to everyone who has helped. And remember, there's plenty of chances remaining to do your part. Thanks especially to all who serve, close to harm, far from home, but never far from our thoughts.
Email your thoughts to Adam Barr