Friday, January 4, 2013

Dispatch from former Lady Monarch -- in Afghanistan

She wore 00 at Old Dominion, and in addition to being a crowd pleaser was an integral part of that storied 1997 Lady Monarch team that finished national runner-up. Jersey City's Nyree Roberts, who played from 1994-98, scored 1,854 points (eighth all time at ODU), had 986 rebounds (seventh) and played in 133 games (fifth, tied with Ticha). How consistent was the 6-4 center who was Thunder to Clarisse Machanguana (Lightning)? Consider that she averaged a field-goal percentage of .615 in her four years. The former Houston Comet, a second team All-American in 1998, also played in Greece prior to retiring from the game in 2007.

What impresses LadySwish just as much as all those glorious numbers is what Nyree does with her life these days. Nyree works for a company called FLUOR, a Fortune 500 company based in Greenville, S.C. She is in the midst of a one-year Department of Defense contract as a Morale, Welfare and Recreation supervisor serving the military. What's home these days? Bagram Air Field in Bagram, Afghanistan, a base she compares to a small city much like a college campus.

"I eat, sleep and rub shoulders with military from all over the world," Nyree says. "I work between two facilities -- the gym and the phone/theater/computer/library center. The soldiers usually come in to work out (think of L.A. Fitness) or to use the computers and/or phones to Skype and email their loved ones. Sometimes we talk and listen to their stories. Sometimes, they need a hug."

In essence, Roberts says she and her staff are there to provide a place of stress relief and fun for soldiers in one of the most dangerous war zones in the world. Bagram is about 40 miles from Kabul.

"We provide a daily movie schedule of current movies from the States, free popcorn every day, cards, board games, live NFL and NBA games, free calls to the States on holidays and a place to play basketball, including tournaments with prizes. The Harlem Globetrotters were here a few weeks ago. We offer Zumba classes, step aerobics and spin classes. We have several denominations of church services on Sundays, and we even have Pizza Hut, Subway and Popeyes chicken for those days when they don't feel like eating in the dining facility."

Is it scary being so close to an area most of us read about but never think of seeing up close?

"It's a war zone, so the threat of the Taliban is always present," Nyree says. "I haven't felt any immediate danger as of yet. I never go off base. I try to stay away from ECPs (Entry Control Points) at all times. I had never met any Afghan people before I arrived here; now I can say they are just like the rest of us. Not the Taliban, but we have thousands of local people who come on base every day, and I work with several. They clean and set up the gym every day -- awesome people! They are Muslim, so they take breaks to pray five times a day. Different culture, but they are good people. I greet and treat everybody the same. I love my job because I get to put a smile on people's faces every single day."

As for hoops, well she's cheering for her beloved Knicks. As far as playing ......

"My basketball days are over, but I met a guy here and I think I may have to dust the old basketball shoes off and play one-on-one."

We're betting on Nyree to take him. We thank her for sharing details of such an awesome experience.

No comments:

Post a Comment