Care packages air dropped to Soldiers
March 16, 2010
FORT MONMOUTH, N.J. -- Soldiers deployed to remote Forward Operating Bases of Iraq and Afghanistan, far from roads or landing strips, survive on the most basic of provisions. For more than three years, members from Project Manager (PM) Command Posts have been shipping supplies to these locations in an effort to ease the stress of being far from home.
"There are Special Forces teams and units who operate in isolation; the only way I can get them their supplies is via aerial delivery," said Col. Thomas Vaccaro, Chief, Distribution Management Center 143rd Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) Joint Sustainment Command, in a letter to a volunteer.
"They have no stores; they get a hot meal maybe once every few weeks; and a shower once every few weeks," added Vaccaro, who recently returned from Afghanistan.
PM Command Posts is an Army Project Management Office assigned to the Program Executive Office of Command, Control, Communications-Tactical (PEO C3T), which is currently in transition from Fort Monmouth, N.J. to Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md. It fields the majority of the Army's radios, and conducts systems integration at the command post i to provide the Warfighter with a completely integrated bundle of technologies, capabilities, and sustainment support.
Although the organization sends donations to deployed Fort Monmouth team members, family and friends, these care packages are often forwarded to fellow Soldiers in extreme remote locations where supplies are needed most.
Col. Cris J. Boyd, PM of Command Posts, fully supports the organization's volunteer effort.
"I can assure you that when a Soldier is on the receiving end of a package or thoughtful contribution, it brings a little reminder of home and a message that the American people care for their own on point," Boyd said.
The volunteers at PM Command Posts spend personal time collecting, packing and shipping a multitude of items for the troops. Among the items that Warfighters request most are eye drops, socks, beef jerky and powdered flavored mixes they can add to plain water. Once overseas, the cartons are delivered to various posts and Forward Operating Bases, often air dropped by parachute or low-dropped from a helicopter. Even in areas closer to civilization, many troops stationed in smaller outposts do not have a PX, or if they do, the shelves are often empty.
The undertaking began in 2006 when Michael Bogner, of PEO C3T's Network Operations, sent an email to then PM Tactical Radio Communications Systems for donations on behalf of the Soldiers. After a slew of letters expressing the troops' appreciation, the effort literally took flight. Today an ever growing amount of donated supplies are sent throughout the year to the most remote locations in Iraq and Afghanistan, said Patty Allocca, PM Command Posts Business Management Division (BMD) Chief and also a volunteer.
"Some of the letters are so touching that I have to stop reading in the middle and take a moment before I can finish," said Barbara Schirloff, an Army contractor who helps coordinate the volunteer efforts and shipping of supplies.
Maj. Patrick Wells, whose unit received parcels from PM Command Posts, sent a letter thanking the folks back home for their generosity. He especially wanted to thank the volunteers on behalf of three teenage Soldiers who were new to the Army and away from home for the very first time.
"Like a great many veterans from previous conflicts and eras of military service, they come from very poor families," he said in his letter. "Your care packages, which included numerous video systems and games, were the first time these kids ever got something really cool for Christmas. It was quite the surprise."
All shipping and postage costs are covered courtesy of the Fort Monmouth Chapters of the Association of the U.S. Army and the Army Aviation Association of America
In addition to the many individuals who contribute to this effort, numerous local groups pitch in to help, such as the Pleasant Valley Adult Day Care Center, St. Rose High School in Belmar, Colts Neck ROTC and local Brownie and Girl Scout Troops..
Laura Zimmerman, nurse manager at Brennan 6 Jersey Shore University Medical Center, held a special interest in supporting U.S. troops. As a Christmas gift, her staff presented her with two huge cartons of assorted supplies to send to the Soldiers.
"What a wonderful way to support our troops." said her mother, Alice Blandino, Command Posts BMD employee and volunteer.
New Yorkers are also strong supporters with the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla 1-1, Fantas-eyes, Inc., and even The David Letterman Show, which donated generously to support U.S. service men and women in harm's way.
Although the actual name of this philanthropic mission changes each season, having been dubbed anything from "Sacks from Santa" to "Salty Snacks for Soldiers," the gratitude from the field remains the same. The simple link to a Soldier's life back in the states is often the most valued gift.
"When someone in the unit announces that cartons have arrived from home, the Soldiers rush out of the woodwork to see them," said Dave Gleason a Command Posts Technical Management Division employee who recently returned from Iraq. "No one really cares what comes out of the cartons; they're just looking for some kind of connection to home."