By 10th Combat Aviation BrigadeSeptember 7, 2011
BAGRAM, Afghanistan, Sept. 7, 2011 -- Many deployed Soldiers sacrifice having common comforts in order to accomplish their unit's mission in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Some Soldiers reside in remote areas, work with no running water, consume only pre-packaged meals, receive mail infrequently and have no electricity.
Sgt. Paul Roberts, a CH-47 Chinook helicopter door gunner with Company B, 7th Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment, which is a Reserve unit serving with 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, Task Force Phoenix, made it his personal mission to provide care packages for Soldiers located in these remote areas.
"I was an infantry Soldier when I first entered the Army in 1989, so I know firsthand how difficult it can be living under these conditions," said Roberts, "I took it upon myself to go to all the units at Bagram asking for anything they could donate to help these Soldiers."
Roberts said he understands how important receiving mail is for the morale of deployed Soldiers.
"We fly all over Afghanistan and see the living conditions some of our fellow Soldiers live in -- which is extremely rough," said Roberts, "Whenever we fly [into remote locations] we always do our best to give them whatever we can."
Roberts and his crew make quick supply drops to many areas that do not have common amenities. During these scheduled flights, Roberts and his crew quickly unload the supplies as well as care packages to these Soldiers. The supplies are often quickly delivered without landing; and in rare circumstances, the crew gets to interact with the Soldiers they help.
"[On one occasion], instead of just dropping off the load and immediately taking off -- we landed. This is something we do not do very often," said Roberts, "One of the Soldiers assigned there walked over to our bird and looked in. We gave him the first of a long line of donated boxes. It took about one minute and we had about 30 Soldiers running to our bird to get the rest. It felt like Christmas in July to us and our hearts felt joy!"
The leadership within Roberts' unit supports his endeavor and has noticed the positive effects it has had on their Soldiers.
"I believe that Sergeant Roberts' efforts have improved the morale of our [unit]," said 1st Sgt. Todd Carter, the Company D, 7-158th first sergeant, "Every Soldier knows what it is like to receive a package from home. Getting the opportunity to help Soldiers in austere conditions receive packages makes us feel good."
Carter, has served in the Army for almost 20 years. He said he is immensely impressed by Roberts' drive to help other Soldiers.
"I have never witnessed one Soldier support [so many] other Soldiers in the way that Sergeant Roberts has. He is the epitome of selfless service," said Carter.
Carter added that the experience is very rewarding for his Soldiers when they get to see the joy that they can bring to others.
"It is great to see the smiling faces at [remote bases] when we arrive," said Carter, "It's like Santa coming in a big green Chinook."
Roberts received the rare opportunity to spend some time at one of the locations in August and finally interacted with the Soldiers since his arrival in May.
"I was on a crew that flew a maintenance team for helicopter repairs to FOB (Forward Operating Base) Bluejay," said Roberts, "We were there for a little over 24 hours, and because of this, I was able to talk with the Soldiers assigned there."
Roberts said the Soldiers in this location rarely see fresh food -- especially fruit. Knowing this, he offered an apple that he brought with him to one of the medics he found enjoying some down time. The medic cut the apple into 12 pieces and shared it with everyone in his tent.
He said it was wonderful to offer them such a rarity and it brought back a rush of memories of when he was in the infantry and how close-knit everyone was.
"My goal is to boost their morale," said Roberts, "I just want to let them know that other Soldiers and civilians care about them."