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Downtime in the desert

Hurry up and wait, or so the idiom goes ... especially when you're a US soldier in Iraq.

A soldier fires a few arrows in between missions at an archery range created by soldiers at Forward Operating Base Warhorse in Iraq's Diyala Province. (Air Force Staff Sgt. Ali Flisek/Department of Defense)

DIYALA PROVINCE, Iraq — Perhaps the true mark of a good soldier is how well he can handle omnipresent boredom. Even with two wars, the military rarely delivers the action-packed moments advertised on recruiting posters.

One tanker currently stationed in Iraq, for example, recalled seeing a poster in the recruiter’s office of a tank jumping a ditch shooting another tank. Now that same tanker sits in on officer meetings and reports back to his unit.

As the war in Iraq winds down, soldiers are increasingly faced with more banal jobs and less hectic operation schedules than those during the height of the conflict.

There are swimming pools and movie theaters at large, central bases, but soldiers stationed far from these amenities are finding novel ways to make the time in between “missions” tick by a little quicker.

Here, put this apple on your head ...

When they’re not in Iraq, the soldiers of the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team are stationed in Alaska. A number of them are avid outdoorsmen.

Not wanting to fall out of practice during their deployment, soldiers who were avid bow hunters at home brought bows and arrows with them to Iraq.

At Forward Operating Base Warhorse, they’ve built an archery range with plywood cutouts of elk and other animals.

“You come here to a place that’s all guns and bombs and here we are shooting bows and arrows that go back thousands of years,” says Staff Sgt. Kyler Johnson. “You get out there and you can forget about everything else that you’ve got going on — all the bad stuff at work, all the problems at home. You just go out there and shoot your bow. It’s nice be able to have that get away.”

One soldier is qualified to certify bow hunters, so those new to the sport can start pursuing big game as soon as they get off the plane back in Alaska.