KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan - Time during deployment drags by, but soldiers with the1st Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, know the United Service Organizations at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, provides a way to make time go by faster.
More than 25 Task Force Demon soldiers volunteer to make the lives of their fellow soldiers better and in the process make their own lives better as well.
“I volunteer my time to help everyone else out,” said Sgt. Steven Bohanan, an avionics mechanic with Company D, 3rd Assault Helicopter Battalion, 1st Aviation Regiment. “Especially being deployed, it’s rough times, and helping people talk with their family, bringing them closer together, it’s good.”
“My goal every day is to help one person, at least, smile because of something I did,” said Spc. Daniel Wilson, a database administrator with Company B, 601st Aviation Support Battalion. “It helps me smile every day, even with the hardships in what we do, especially due to our recent losses within the CAB.”
During the 2013 holiday season, the task force experienced the loss of seven soldiers.
When asked how he copes with these losses during the holidays, Pfc. Jonathan Coltrain, a helicopter power train repairer with Company B, 601st Aviation Support Battalion, says volunteering “makes it a lot easier.”
“It’s a two way street,” Coltrain said. “You could stay in your room and do your own thing, or you could go out and make other people happy by helping them. Like an infection, once you go out and help share the warmth, it starts catching till it’s everywhere.”
To other volunteers, such as Spc. Derek Merkler, an avionics mechanic with Company D, 3rd AHB, 1st Aviation Regiment, working in the USO is a “stress reliever” from the hardships of being away from family.
“I come here to call my wife and kids back home, and I can help others use the USO as a stress reliever from the distraction of being away from home and as a place for them to be with their other family,” said Merkler.
With more than 160 locations in 27 states and 14 countries and only 450 full time employees, the USO relies heavily on its volunteers.
When the Kandahar USO’s volunteer coordinator, Kelly Sandbrink, heard about First Cup, a coffee house for soldiers and civilians working in the CAB’s area on Kandahar Airfield, needing volunteers, she jumped to help.
“These are my soldiers,” said Sandbrink. “The CAB’s volunteers are phenomenal, some of the best I’ve ever met. Anything we need done, anything we ask of them, they get done, half the time without us even asking or knowing it needed to get done!”
Sandbrink, and her fellow First Cup volunteer and USO coworker Karl Gaffney White, donate two hours of their time three days a week to support the CAB.
“I’ve always volunteered back home in the states, and I don’t want my volunteers to not be able to get a cup of coffee and relax during their shift,” said Sandbrink.