FORT STEWART, Ga. - Single Soldiers assigned to the 416th Transportation Company, 260th Quartermaster Battalion, 3rd Sustainment Brigade, Third Infantry Division's received an unexpected surprise when they arrived home from their deployment to Kuwait in support of Operation New Dawn.Those who live in the barracks found new blankets and other amenities provided by Operation Fluffy Pillow, in partnership with the unit's Family Readiness Group."Although the FRG is supposed to be for everybody and not just married Soldiers, a lot of the time single Soldiers get left behind," Kerry Autry, wife of 416th Transportation Company Commander, Capt. Chip Autry, and the FRG leader, said. "As much as we hate to say it, preparing for the redeployment of all the Soldiers in the unit is just too big a job for spouses who are left behind with their own kids and work. We were thrilled when we found out about this organization that could come in and help out with these rooms. To have an organization like this come in and help us out is just amazing."Operation Fluffy Pillow is a service project of GraceFields, founded in Columbus, Ga., near Fort Benning. The program provides FRGs and commanders additional support to help single Soldiers in the barracks feel more at home upon returning from deployments. The program also served redeploying Soldiers assigned to the 24th Financial Management Company, Special Troops Battalion, 3rd Sustainment Brigade, 3rd Inf. Div., who recently returned from a year-long deployment to Iraq."We coordinate efforts within military communities to welcome home troops returning from deployment. Our main focus is junior-enlisted, single Soldiers returning to the barracks," said Emily Pettitt, director of OFP. "Operation Fluffy Pillow has also given the community the opportunity to reach out to the military in a way that is practical and meaningful. We believe that this outreach by the community is of great value to the Soldiers and extremely important to help them with reintegration. We know the greater the support system, the better the odds for a smooth reintegration back to society. It is our privilege to help spearhead this operation and coordinate community involvement."The organization, under Pettitt's leadership, came to the 260th Quartermaster Battalion barracks with a truckload of twin sheets, pillows, hand-made fleece blankets, towel/wash cloth sets, laundry detergent, snack bags, cosmetic bags for female Soldiers and cards from a variety of community groups. The volunteers dressed up each room and made sure each returning Soldier had a comfortable, tidy and colorful room to return to.
"I have being praying to the Lord as far as what to do with the gift that I have to make denim raggedy quilt," said Peggy Drummond, a volunteer from First Baptist Church of the Islands. "I went to a meeting, where I met Emily Petitt. I told her that I will make a raggedy quilt for the organization and with her help, I was able to organize members of our church to donate items and they responded tremendously. Right now we have so many items to support another group of Soldiers who will be coming home. This is the first time we are coming out to set up the rooms and we are hoping that after today there will be more churches and organizations involved in this project."Polly Stewart, another volunteer from First Baptist Church of the Islands, said what motivated her was a Bible study group. The theme of the Bible Study was Holy ambition."It was encouraging us to step out of ourselves and do something," Stewart explained. "So when Peggy stepped up and said this is what she wants to do, I jumped in to assist. I love the Soldiers for all they do. Without them we won't be able to do this."Emily Styers, a marketing teacher at Northside High School in Columbus, came with four of her students to assist. The students, members of DECA, an association for marketing students, serve as marketing interns, and produced marketing strategies to promote Operation Fluffy Pillow to get more people involved."Last year we donated the items. This is the first time we have actually come out and done the rooms," Styers said."This is a unique experience," added Gabby Wilson, a student at Northside HS. "I don't get to do this every day. Being able to say I was a part of this and being able to spread the word makes me happy."Besides Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield, Operation Fluffy Pillow has served Soldiers at Fort Benning and Fort Richardson, Alaska. Pettitt said her goal is to be able to reach even more military installations.