In the last five weeks the Fort Bragg and Charlotte, N.C., communities have rallied in support of the Soldiers of the 519th Military Intelligence Battalion donating personal hygiene items, blankets, pillows, sheets, socks and even electronics to the unit.

As all Soldiers do prior to deployment, the 80 Soldiers of Headquarters and Headquarters Co., 519th MI Bn., took the time to pack several comfort and personal hygiene items into a giant, military-owned shipping box.

Items packed included pictures of loved ones and electronics to sports memorabilia and books.
In order to have these items when they arrived in Afghanistan, the unit loaded and shipped the milvan more than three months ago.

Unfortunately, all the planning did not prepare the Soldiers for what happened when they opened their milvan at Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan. The box had been cleaned out. Everything had been stolen. Since then, the people of the Fort Bragg and Charlotte communities have readily been resupplying Soldiers with many needed items.

The gear from two of the unit's military cargo vans was stolen somewhere between the major seaport in Karachi, Pakistan and Bagram, Afghanistan, where the unit is deployed. A military
investigation is ongoing.

"Although an unfortunate incident, it has in some ways brought our Family readiness group together quickly with a real purpose and mission to take care of their Soldiers," said Lt. Col. Tony Hale, 519th MI Bn. commander.

Due to a grassroots movement to collect items for the Soldiers led by one of the Soldier's parents, more than 15 pallets of personal items have been sent to the battalion from various groups to include the Charlotte community, Pillows for Troops, Give 2 the Troops and the battalion Family readiness group.

In response to over two dozen care packages that were recently received from various community groups, Sgt. Sandra Carroll, HHC, 519th MI Bn., said, "People are awesome. You never know how much people care about you and your sacrifices until something like this happens."

"We're keeping this all positive; the outpouring is unbelievable," Hale said.

According to Maj. Shawn Merges, the battalion executive officer, the theft has not affected the unit's mission and the morale of the troops remains high. "We started receiving items from the Family readiness group and Pillows for Patriots Aug. 7 and the Soldiers were very grateful," he said. Morale remains high. The Soldiers are focused and ready to conduct operations.

"The support of our Families and community is always important," said Hale. "In this case their support provided practical and comfort items and greatly improved morale. But this is not surprising from a community like Fayetteville or a state like North Carolina which has provided continuous support to Fort Bragg Soldiers throughout this period of persistent conflict."