American Red Cross representatives, volunteers, and service members of United States Forces - Iraq gathered together for a luncheon on Camp Victory, Iraq, May 8.

Guests included Col. Strep Kuehl, directorate of human resources, United States Forces - Iraq, Col. Guy Thomas, garrison commander of Victory Base Complex, Felecia Chavez, station manager for the American Red Cross on Camp Liberty and Dee Swanier, senior director of service delivery for American Red Cross.

"This luncheon was definitely a highlight because our volunteers got a chance to interact with one another and see that we all have one thing in common," said Chavez. "That is being able to volunteer in one capacity or another."

Swanier traveled from D.C. to visit the personnel and to see how the facilities were operating in Iraq.

The American Red Cross is a worldwide operation, with facilities on military installations in Japan, Europe, deployed locations and the continental U.S. "The staff members of the Red Cross are primarily responsible for providing emergency communication for service members," said Swanier. "There are volunteer programs, hospital programs and numerous services that they provide to enhance service members' morale."

Swanier also visited Balad, where she was looking for feedback from the staff of the strengths and weaknesses of the locations.

"My reason for this visit was for one, conduct a management visit with the staff to make sure everything is going well with them and that they're getting the support that they need," said Swanier. "The second was to assess the situation and see how we move forward with the draw down."

Swanier said that typically in the Red Cross, when you have them on an installation or in an environment such as Iraq, people will see Morale Welfare and Recreation, post exchanges, and other support facilities leave, while Red Cross is always the last to leave.

"Every trip I make I always hear about the great services the Red Cross provides and I knew I would probably get that," said Swanier. She also said she wanted more information on how Red Cross merges with the military in the drawdown plan and how they should shift their focus from where they are now to where they will be in the future in Iraq.

With service members and civilians volunteering their time at the Red Cross on Camp Liberty, the visit symbolized the significance of being a volunteer.

"I think volunteering is very important because if you look at the number of hours that volunteers put in and you equate that to how much someone would get paid, you save the military a large amount of money," said Swanier. "To have a volunteer to come in with certain attributes, skills, and training replaces a position that a person would have to find."

Chavez said Swanier's visit was something all her staff were looking forward to.

"It was great having Mrs. Swanier come to the luncheon so she could see the faces of those who actually make Red Cross here so successful," said Spc. Megan Ladesh a veterinary technician with the 218th Medical Detachment. "It's a morale boost just being in company of people who genuinely care."

With a cohesive team, everyone working together and lots of laughs during the luncheon, Swanier said the visit was outstanding.

"The command here is very supportive and that's how we get our job accomplished," she said. "Nothing but great things to say about the team, it's been a wonderful visit."

For more information on the Red Cross on Camp Liberty, contact Chavez at DSN# 485-7217 or 485-7206 or email