SOUTHWEST ASIA -- During a long deployment, small comforts can help ease homesickness and boost morale. Capt. Timothy Baranoski, 1st Battalion, 44th Air Defense Artillery chaplain, decided to create a resilience center to provide those comforts and more to help the Soldiers of the "Strike First" Battalion through their current deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
With help from kind-hearted citizens from across the United States the resilience center, under the direction of Pfc. Derrick White, chaplain assistant, Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 1-44 ADA, has grown beyond the original intent.
"What you see here today started as a crazy idea but with love and support and an extra helping of blessing, it has grown beyond what I could have ever imagined," said Capt. Baranoski the battalion chaplain.
Last month, 31st Air Defense Artillery Brigade command team of Col. Michael Morrissey and Command Sgt. Maj. Gerardo Dominguez Maj., 1-44 ADA Battalion Commander Lt. Col. Maurice Barnett and Battalion Command Sgt. Maj. Command Sgt. Maj. Robert Sanchez, along with the battalion Unit Ministry Team officially opened the "CSM James D. Blankenbecler Resilience Center" with a ribbon cutting ceremony, marking the beginning of a great new facility and program for the Soldiers.
The resilience center has a full stock of basic hygiene items for Soldiers, and there are a variety of snacks and goods along with occasional homemade cookies from different family members donated from across the United States. While hygiene items and snacks are enough to boost morale, the resilience center also offers a library of DVDs and books for Soldiers to enjoy in their down-time.
Perhaps the greatest feature of the resilience center is the "Reading Corner." Soldiers have the opportunity to record themselves reading a book to their children and families and send a DVD along with a copy of the book back to their families at home.
The resiliency center was dedicated to Command Sgt. Maj. James D. Blankenbecler. Blankenbecler who was assigned to 1st Battalion, 44th Air Defense Artillery Regiment in 2003, was deployed to Iraq, he was in a convoy that was hit by an improvised explosive device and rocket propelled grenade. Blankenbecler died of his injuries on 1 October 2003. Blankenbecler demonstrated the Army Values in service to his Soldiers and country by putting his Soldiers and their welfare above his own, and giving his life for the freedom of others.
"Command Sgt. Maj. Blankenbecler was a good man who cared about his Soldiers, this is a great legacy to his name," reflected Command Sgt. Maj. Gerardo Dominguez.