News: Morale program gives soldiers a break from battle
KHOWST PROVINCE, Afghanistan — Although it’s no island in the Caribbean, soldiers with the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Task Force Duke, stationed at outlying combat outposts visited Forward Operating Base Salerno, Afghanistan, May 27, for a few days of rest and relaxation as part of the Duke Morale Program.
The program is designed for soldiers who are stationed at remote COPs lacking the amenities a larger FOB like Salerno offers, said U.S. Army 1st Sgt. Kerry Crudup, the first sergeant for Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3rd BCT, 1st Inf. Div., TF Duke, and a native of Temple Hills, Md.
U.S. Army Col. Chris Toner, commander of the 3rd BCT, 1st Inf. Div., TF Duke, and a native of Topeka, Kan., said he understands how important it is for soldiers to take a break now and then.
“This is something we did for our soldiers the last time I was here when the conditions at the remote COPs and FOBs were even worse,” said Toner, whose previous deployment to Paktika province in 2006-2007 was with the 2nd Battalion, 87th Inf. Regiment, 10th Mountain Div.
“It’s the least we can do for our heroes out on the front line who are giving 110 percent every day,” he said.
Every week an invitation is extended to all TF Duke battalions to send their soldiers for a much-needed break from the rigors and stress of combat, Crudup said.
“Sometimes the operation tempo out there means they can’t spare any personnel and they have to say ‘Sorry, not this week,’” Crudup said. “But, they’re happy to send people if the mission dictates they can.”
Soldiers usually spend the weekend at FOB Salerno, arriving on Friday and leaving on Sunday, said U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Thomas Davis, a chaplain’s assistant with HHC, 3rd BCT, 1st Inf. Div., TF Duke, and a native of Pompano Beach, Fla.
“We were given the opportunity to give guys from outlying COPs a couple of days to take a knee and get away from the fight,” said Davis.
Upon arriving at Salerno, soldiers are given a briefing and a pamphlet with the FOB rules. They are also given a tour of the FOB, which includes the Post Exchange, the finance office, the gym, the dining facility and other amenities.
For U.S. Army Cpl. Joshua Hill, a military policeman with HHC, Special Troops Battalion, 3rd BCT, 1st Inf. Div., TF Duke, and a native of Mountain Home, Ark., the PX was one of his first stops.
Carrying a list of supplies his buddies asked for, he’ll be stocking up for himself and his friends before returning to COP Saberi, Hill said.
“It’s pretty nice they have things like this to help out soldiers who need it,” he added.
U.S. Army Spc. Jeffrey Hopkins, with Company B, STB, 3rd BCT, 1st Inf. Div., TF Duke, and a native of Sherridan, Ore., also from COP Saberi, said he’s looking forward to calling friends and family back home.
“Some soldiers don’t even leave the room and spend their time sleeping,” said Crudup. “They just enjoy the tranquility.”
One of the amenities U.S. Army Spc. Harold Badillo, a military policeman with HHC, STB, 3rd BCT, 1st Inf. Div., TF Duke, based at COP Bak, and a native of Lanai City, Hawaii, was looking forward to most was having a hot meal three times a day.
Because Bak does not have a full dining facility, soldiers there get a hot breakfast and dinner, but can only get Meals-Ready-To-Eat or snacks at other times.
Since Bak has no laundry facilities and soldiers have to send their dirty clothes to Salerno to be washed, the visit was a good chance to catch up on his laundry, Badillo added.
“It’s good to know the higher-ups understand we need this,” Badillo said. “Some guys haven’t seen Salerno since we came through here on our way to our COP when we first got here.”