No business like show business: First indoor movie theater hits the stage for troops in Iraq
Story by Spc. Blanka Stratford
13th COSCOM PAO
A traditional ribbon cutting ceremony and a not-so-traditional cutting of two gargantuan cakes marked the grand opening of the Sustainer Indoor Theater, the first indoor 35mm movie theater for troops at LSA Anaconda, March 17.
"It's a way of bringing a taste of home back to the Soldiers," said Col. (P) James Chambers, commander of the 13th Corps Support Command and LSA Anaconda. "[The Soldiers] have worked hard and under high risk conditions. They deserve it."
The notion of the theater, which underwent a variety of improvements and alterations before reaching its final stage, began with the 3rd COSCOM's initiative to improve the quality of life for service members deployed to Iraq. The operation then moved to the Mid East Trading Company's hands, which renovated the theater under the supervision of Mr. Gene Tindall.
Under the final authority of the 13th COSCOM, the indoor theater was completed by members of the Army and Air Force Exchange Service, who provided sound, projection, food and, of course, the movies.
"It has required down-to-the-wire labor to make this whole operation come to life and meet the 13th COSCOM commander's vision," said Col. Shelley Richardson, commander of the AAFES Europe and Southwest Asia divisions. "This includes our lighting and sound technicians, projectionists, and our food operators bringing all the equipment in, hooking it up and making sure that the electricity works."
Richardson said the aim of the project was to bring Soldiers deployed to Iraq the same experience as if they were going to an actual movie theater back in the United States.
"This is one tremendous theater," she said. "It's a great boost for the morale of Soldiers and AAFES is thrilled to be a part of it."
Soldiers were thrilled to be a part of it as well.
"This theater was a good idea," said Spc. Everett Ware, primary load logistic supply clerk for the 31st Combat Support Hospital. "It gives Soldiers something to do in their spare time instead of just sitting in their rooms or tents."
"I think AAFES did a really great job, not only with the theater but with the ceremony," said Sgt. Melinda Bluemling, water purification specialist for the 326th Quartermaster Detachment, based out of New Castle, Penn. "They brought huge cakes down here, they prayed for our safety and thanked God for everything. They really know how to start something up and get it out to the Soldiers.
Bluemling, who has been in country for nearly a year and has less than 20 days to go, said she hopes other service members will use the opportunity they have to go to the theater and take a breather from the stresses of everyday work.
"The troops in Iraq have left behind the things and the people they love in order to help carry the flag of freedom to those who've been denied it for so long," said Richardson. "Soldiers' sacrifices will soon mean that many people will be able to enjoy the freedoms we love. For that, AAFES thanks the American Armed Forces."
AAFES' token of appreciation - the Sustainer Indoor Theater - is currently playing three movies a day, starting at 3:00p.m., 6:00p.m., and 9:00p.m. Enjoy the movies.
Moreno Alarilla, chief of food and theater for the Army and Air Force Exchange Service
(from left to right) Col. Shelley Richardson, commander of the AAFES Europe and Southwest Asia divisions; Pfc. Amanda Clark, LSA Anaconda Soldier and Airman Council president; Col. (P) James Chambers, commander of the 13th Corps Support Command and LSA Anaconda; and Johnny Johnson, chief of Morale, Welfare and Recreation, partake in the ribbon-cutting portion of the Sustainer Indoor Theater grand opening, March 17. The Sustainer Indoor Theater is the first 35mm theater made for service members deployed to Iraq.
“The troops in Iraq have left behind the things and the people they love in order to help carry the flag of freedom to those who've been denied it for so long,” said Col. Shelley Richardson, commander of the AAFES Europe and Southwest Asia divisions.