News: Volunteers help keep service members entertained
Story by Spc. Richard Daniels Jr.
NANGARHAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan - Located near the transient airport terminal on Forward Operating Base Fenty, a small building is populated with gamers, phone chatters, movie goers, Internet surfers, music lovers, TV watchers and sometimes, the occasional couch potato.
Since opening Nov. 1, the United Service Organizations on FOB Fenty has provided services to those stationed there and those in transit thanks to soldiers volunteering their time to keep the place open.
Due to the dedication of a nearly all-volunteer soldier staff, the facility holds special events and has increased its hours of operation.
U.S. Army Reserve Spc. Garritt L. Hansen, an automated logistical specialist with the 971st Medical Logistics Company, said he started volunteering in November. He’d often stay after hours to assist with clean up so the staff could leave earlier.
“We closed at eight at that time, and gradually [I started working] more and more here,” said Hansen, an Aurora, Utah, native.
Word quickly spread about the new USO building at Fenty, and it soon became a soldier hotspot.
“The best benefit is just the simple fact that we have the fastest internet on the FOB with free phones,” said U.S. Army Spc. Steven Howie of San Diego, a chaplain’s assistant with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division. “And now that we’ve been able to keep it open longer at nights, it’s nice to be able to come somewhere ... you can chill out for a couple hours,” he said. “And we have popcorn,” he chuckled.
Aside from being able to help soldiers, U.S. Army Reserve Pfc. Matthew Walden, a medical supply specialist with the 971st Medical Logistics Company, said he likes volunteering at the USO because he enjoys running into people he got to know here.
“The ice has already been broken by talking to and meeting the soldiers here, so we already have a rapport,” said Walden, a St. George, Utah, native. “We know a lot of people on the FOB because of working here.”
So why do the volunteers feel their customers keep coming back for more?
“I know what they are coming in here for,” said Walden. “I know they want to use the phones; they want to be treated (well); and they want a relaxed environment away from the stresses of work or dealing with rank and different sergeants. It’s a time where they can just relax, so we try to create that atmosphere.”