BALAD AIR BASE, Iraq -- The recreation facilities here are so good that the troops in the field often use this base for R&R, said Capt. Alek Lied, a pilot for Duluth's 148th Fighter Wing.

He and his wife, Master Sgt. Anne Lied, played chess at the super-sized base's recreation center Wednesday evening, one of his few evenings off.

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About 300 of the Minnesota Air National Guard unit's airmen have been stationed at the combined U.S. Air Force and Army base for almost two months. Almost everyone stationed at the base said they do something to relieve the stresses of the war, their jobs and being away from home.

The base has at least two first-run movie theaters, intramural sports leagues, karaoke competitions, video games, board games, bingo and poker tournaments.

But despite all the effort the military puts into finding things for people to do in the little downtime they have, many said they were bored with base nightlife and preferred to keep working or volunteer at the hospital.

"I haven't taken a day off yet because there's nothing to do," Senior Master Sgt. Dwayne Wuestneck said.

Tech Sgt. Glen Flanagan said after the first few days, the recreational activities lose their luster.

More than a few said they were disappointed the outdoor pool won't open until after they leave. It was a big hit last time the 148th was stationed at the Balad Air Base in the summer of 2005 when the temperatures soared.

The gym and outdoor track still are popular, though. Several 148th members said they want to use the time in the sun to work off some winter bulk.

The base is a 24-hour operation, so the state-of-the-art gym is almost always full. Service personnel need two pairs of shoes to use the gym. Otherwise, the equipment would get gummed up with the base's ever-present dust.

"People try to get in shape here because there's nothing else to do," 148th Staff Sgt. David Wigg said.

Exercise is essential to relieving stress, said the 148th's flight surgeon, Col. Janus Butcher.

One wall is filled with a bank of flat-screen TVs in front of treadmills, stationary bikes and elliptical machines. Everyone, it seems, wears an iPod.

A lot of the airmen, some of whom spend their days hefting 500-pound bombs, were lifting weights.

Members of the 148th also try to have fun wherever they can find it.

A s'mores party commenced over a garbage-can fire this week, replete with nonalcoholic beers. It's also common to find people getting some sun in chairs near the 148th headquarters or pitching horseshoes between missions.

The base also features several hair salons with nail care and masseuses.

"It could be worse," Senior Master Sgt. Marcia Dumancas said.