By Sgt. Marty BortonMarch 31, 2017
CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait - The volunteers who come to work for the United Services Organization facilities in the U.S. Army Central area of operations work long hours to help support troop morale. Most of these volunteers are civilians, who want to support Service members any way they can, and some are even prior service. However, the USO at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, is home to a current Army Reserve Soldier.
Staff Sgt. Heaven Howes, a logistics coordinator duty manager with USO Camp Arifjan, and a transportation movement specialist in the U.S. Army Reserve, currently assigned to the 940th Movement Control Team, Fort Sheridan, Illinois, and she calls the USO home.
"Ironically enough, as a Service member, she is one of the very people that the USO supports," said Jessica Shelton, programs coordinator duty manger, USO Camp Arifjan. "Here she is doing what she can on the civilian side to continue supporting the troops."
Howes' duties at the USO include, but are not limited to, balancing monthly accounts, processing documents pertaining to fundamental programs, assisting with the volunteer programs, and upkeep of the center.
"She became the main person that I would observe to see how a center is run," said Aubree Minakami, the social media and family services coordinator duty manager, at USO Camp Arifjan. "I'm very glad of that, she is very professional on top of everything she does."
Shelton says Howes' experiences have had a huge impact when it comes to her position with the USO.
"She always has the USO mission in mind and tries to make this center a home away from home for our patrons," Shelton said.
Howes elaborates on Shelton's mention and the opportunity she is afforded by working at the USO.
"It is a privilege to provide our 'guys' with a home away from home, by working to supply them with a place of refuge, relaxation, entertainment, solace, comfort, and ways to connect to home or with others," Howes said.
Moreover, her actions and accommodating nature does not stop just at the Soldiers who frequent the USO. She also jokes and plays pranks on other volunteers and co-workers. However, when there is work to do, she always places the mission first.
"Heaven is a big goofball, but when it comes down to completing a task she is full steam ahead and ready to go," Shelton said. "She has an awesome work ethic ... and she will go above and beyond for everyone around her."
And this work standard she follows does not go unnoticed among the other volunteers.
"She definitely puts her all into her work," Ramos stated. "She loves it. She gives it her whole heart and soul, even if she's tired, she still gives it 100 percent."
While her work ethic and selfless service may indeed be a personal trait, Howes credits her female peers and senior leadership for helping shape her as a person and a Soldier. Whereas, she is especially proud of the progress the Army has made toward equal treatment of female troops.
"Often times, when I state the name of a high-ranking individual it is met with male pronouns -- he and him, there is a sense of pride when saying that a woman holds the position," Howes stated. "I love when I see anyone succeed, but there is something special about seeing women complete the Army Ranger course or excelling in a position that was once only for men."
Nevertheless, she strives to exemplify the best of qualities where ever she can and with whomever she meets.
"I find characteristics within all women that I meet, that I appreciate and want to embody in my own character," she said.
Those around Howes also say her values and personal courage make a lasting impression.
"She's not a woman who will back from anything," said Ramos. "If she has a dream, then she chases it."
And to some she is even setting an admirable example and ideology.
"She's fearless and flexible and she shows people you can do anything you can set your mind to," said Minakami.
Some of her co-workers and volunteers say they admire Howes' character and have embraced some of the qualities that she presents.
"She's very positive and super uplifting," Ramos stated. "If I tell her my goals and my dreams she motivates me to do it."
Likewise, her kindness and consideration reaches those around her, regardless of their position.
"Her compassion and empathy for the volunteers was also something that I really picked up on when I first got here," Minakami said. "A lot of those qualities within her are things that I hope to achieve as a duty manager here."
On the other hand,as a noncommissioned officer, Howes, like the women that she looks up to, had to start from the bottom. As with many in the Army, Howes enlisted at an early age in search of advancing herself personally and professionally.
"I enlisted into the military at 17 and left for (basic training) when I was 18 years old. I joined the military because I desired a greater sense of purpose," she said. "I wanted to experience new opportunities, educate myself, and be financially independent."
Over those years Howes developed her leadership and uses that to help teach those at the USO.
"I came from a limited career experience before I came out here, I've learned a lot from her leadership style," Dolan said.
Howes' career has provided her many opportunities to gain knowledge; two separate deployments to Afghanistan, an assignment to Italy, and she randomly travels to several states in support of Army missions.
"The experiences the military has given me is something I would not have been able to achieve had I not joined," Howes said.
Even though Howes is working as a civilian with the USO she still has to maintain her Army Reserve commitment. She says she accomplishes this by coordinating with other Reserve units located at Camp Arifjan.
"With all of her challenges with Reservist life out here, she has carved her own path and a lot of people are inspired by it," Minakami said. "It's posed no problems or issues with (the USO)."
Minakami expanded on the uniqueness of Howes' situation, considering she is a Reservist while also working at the USO as a civilian, but her skills help her bridge the gap between the military and civilian world.
"I am so proud of my service in the United States Army Reserve," Howes said. "The Reserves has made me into the woman I am today."
Howes believes her life lessons have helped her understand how to better engage and support all those who come visit the USO center.
"I hope my intimate knowledge of the military allows me to better support the troops here at Camp Arifjan. We are still one team, one fight; even if I am on the other side of the house at the USO," Howes said. "The greatest honor about working as a duty manager for the USO at Camp Arifjan is that I am able to provide support to my sisters and brothers in arms in such a different capacity."