ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE --
One of the great perks of working at Robins Air Force Base is the vast recreational opportunities.
There may not be a city recreation department in Middle Georgia that can match it, and there certainly isnt another workplace that can.
And you dont actually have to work there to enjoy it, as long as you have base access identification. That includes military retirees, Guardsmen and reservists, and full-time contractors at the base.
Robins has two fitness centers, including one with an indoor swimming pool, a running and fitness trail, a golf course, a bowling alley, horse stables, several fish ponds, a campground, nature trails, a basketball court, a baseball field, a football field, a soccer field, hunting areas and a skeet range.
If none of that is enough, the outdoor recreation office can hook up people with group trips or individual tickets to sporting events and places such as the Georgia Aquarium. The only program with some limitations on participation are trips especially for single airmen, such as a deep sea fishing expedition. Although if space is available, others also may be able to join.
As the military cuts back on just about everything else, recreation is one area that has been mostly spared.
Even in this time of budget restraints and drawdowns, we are not affected from a recreational standpoint, said Kent Jenkins, flight chief of recreational activities. Its going to be a challenge with some of the budget cuts we have seen come down, but there is no indication that any of our services are going to close.
The key is that recreational activities are generally expected to be self sufficient. The bowling alley does quite well, Jenkins said. The golf course has been doing better financially after a membership drive tripled the number of members. That was important to keeping the course open.
It has struggled over the past couple of years, but we are on the comeback trail, Jenkins said. The push is, if its not self sufficient, then we are looking at closure.
The only activities that have shut down are a wood hobby shop, an auto repair shop for do-it-yourself mechanics and the base movie theater. The theater, however, is still used for various other activities.
There are some plans for expanding opportunities, Jenkins said, including making the fitness center annex a 24-hour operation accessible by key card.
The base recreation center also has a vast amount of equipment that can be rented, including various types of boats, camper trailers, camping equipment and much more. It also has a good bit of equipment for those wanting to throw a big party, including many large barbecue grills mounted on trailers, bounce houses, tables, chairs and chafing dishes. Those start going fast in the spring and summer, said Jaime Shugart, outdoor recreation director.
We are just on the verge of becoming wide open for the summer, she said in March.
Approximately 24,000 people work at Robins. Its biggest mission is performing overhaul maintenance on the C-130, C-5, C-17 and F-15 aircraft. It is also home to J-STARS, or Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System, which flies the E-8C aircraft, the 5th Combat Communications Group, and many other units.