Some of my deployments to Afghanistan have been balls-to-the-wall busy with little to no time for training, video games, hobbies or even working out. Other instances have been filled with long breaks where we were stood down or unable to go on missions for whatever reason.

During these times, training is extremely important. It feels redundant and training resources can be quite limited out in Afghanistan, especially if you’re in some little COP in the middle of nowhere. Still, it’s my experience that you can always do something that will better yourself as a soldier. At the very least, dry fires and magazine changes push your skills that much further.

But when the pace is slow, even copious amounts of training won’t fill all the deployment time in the world. This is why a lot of guys come back in incredible shape. They spend that time working out, running and lifting until they are no longer distinguishable from monsters. This is one of the most productive uses of one’s time that I can think of — many philosophers throughout history harp on the value of a trained body as well as mind.

Others play video games, and burn through them like a kid with Halloween candy. I remember beating the story from “Far Cry 3” in four days. I only left our living areas to go to the bathroom, eat, work out, and train.

However, generally speaking, I liked to write. I wrote for hours and hours — I wrote a 300 and something page book that I never finished, but that developed my writing to a somewhat acceptable level (I never had any writing talent, just a lot of trial and error). I also wrote a couple of short stories and a full screenplay. I would say I wrote approximately 500 pages of content over my deployments, very little of which is actually presentable. But it honed my writing skills to a marketable level because I put the time in.

I also played and wrote music; I sang and played guitar. Again, I was never talented but when the hours presented themselves, I tried my best to take my Ranger discipline that I always siphoned into my training, and apply it to my hobbies. I saw value in improving myself in all facets of life, on top of the tactical necessities for my job.