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Defense Dept. Urges Furloughed Workers to Use ‘Free or Low-Cost’ Recreation During Time Off

1:17 PM, Jul 30, 2013 • By JERYL BIER
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While furloughs of civilian employees of the Defense Department have not lived up to the pre-sequester billing, the Pentagon is doing what it can to ease the pain for those who will be taking involuntary time off.  The American Forces Press Service is reporting that the director of the Pentagon's Morale, Welfare and Recreation (WMR) program is urging furloughed civilians to tap into "fitness, recreational and educational services, often at no charge or for significantly less than one might pay just outside an installation’s gates."  The list of "free or low-cost" offerings is extensive:

A common access card gives DOD civilian employees access to free or low-cost use of base fitness centers, swimming pools, libraries, movie theaters, bowling alleys, clubs, arts-and-craft centers, auto repair shops, golf courses, campgrounds, shooting ranges, beaches and marinas. 

Depending on the location, DOD civilians also can rent camping, boating, snorkeling, skiing and other outdoor gear at their base outdoor recreation office. They can visit the installation tickets and tours office to buy discount tickets to civilian movie theaters, theme parks and travel and tour packages. 

Some civilian employees may not realize they’re also qualified to rent the recreational campgrounds, cabins, cottages, trailers and trailer or recreational vehicle parks with hook-ups found on many military installations.

There is even access to resorts that the article refers to as the "crown jewels" of the program:

That extends to the crown jewels of the MWR program: Armed Forces Recreation Center resorts at popular vacation spots. All run by the Army but open to military and civilian employees from every service, these include Shades of Green on the grounds of Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla.; the Hale Koa in Honolulu; the Edelweiss Lodge and Resort in Garmisch, Germany; and the Dragon Hill Lodge in Seoul, South Korea. 

The Navy runs a similar resort-type facility, the New Sanno Hotel, in Tokyo. In addition, the Air Force has a partnership with Keystone Resort, Colo., to offer discounts at Rocky Mountain Blue, with a variety of lodging options and recreational discounts.

The WMR director said it's too early to say whether or not DOD civilians are utilizing the program more since sequestration, but he expects an increase due to the low cost and convenience.  He speculated that the WMR program may soon be subject to cost-cutting, but that in the meantime, civilian employees should "make the most of the furlough situation."

“MWR is here for them,” he said. “There’s no better time than now to check out what’s available.”

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