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Troops Get A Beach Break With PM-Hurricane Aftermath, Bjt

September 14, 1992

TAVERNIER, Fla. (AP) _ For relief from their grinding Hurricane Andrew duty, soldiers can take a one-day trip to a different world.

Less than an hour by Army truck from the scene of wreckage and rebuilding, soldiers can change into T-shirts and swim trunks and head for the beach.

″They can get away from the rubble and just forget about everything for a day,″ said Lt. Phil Ayer, of the Army’s 10th Mountain Division. He was preparing Sunday for the arrival of more than 400 troops at his division’s ″Morale, Welfare And Recreation (MWR)″ site - oceanside Harry Harris Park.

Other units began rest-and-relaxation rotations during the weekend in Key Largo and Islamadora. Some 1,000 soldiers a day will get one-day excursions.

The 10th Mountain Division plans to give soldiers one day off after they work 10 straight days - days that often run 12 hours, Ayer said.

’They’re long days, and it can drag you down into the doldrums if you don’t get a break,″ he said.

Jesus Gutierrez, a medic, was ready after more than two weeks of duty.

″It’s a refreshing new environment,″ he said. When he first arrived in Homestead, he said, ″We were in shock. We’ve never seen anything like it.″

″I saw Kuwait. It was nothing compared to this,″ said John Dry, who arrived here for ″swimming, sunbathing, and trying to find some women.″

Florida Keys merchants and hoteliers, their tourism down after the storm, have given the soldiers an enthusiastic greeting. Keys businesses are dotted with welcome signs and promises of ″military discounts.″

Ayer said the Army’s focus is its relief mission, although commanders are pleased to help the local economy.

He warned Gutierrez that he may still end up treating patients even though it’s his day off.

″We’re from northern New York (Fort Drum) and we’re not used to these temperatures,″ Ayer explained.

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