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August 2007

MSCO Kuwait receives moral-boosting support
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By Gillian Brigham, SEALOGEUR Public Affairs

Artwork from students
A door at Military Sealift Command Office Kuwait is adorned with artwork from stateside elementary-school students. This display, which highlights an outpouring of support for U.S. troops, is typical of other displays found around MSCO Kuwait. MSCO Kuwait photos

During World War II's final days in 1945, a newly formed humanitarian organization known as Cooperative for American Remittances to Europe, or CARE, began sending food relief to survivors of a war-ravaged Europe. This food was assembled into 10-item bundles that included things like a pound of beef, a pound of raisins and two pounds of margarine.

These bundles were widely distributed and eventually trademarked as CARE Packages, a popular term which took hold in American vernacular as a reference to any kind of food or supplies mailed for purposes of comfort or relief.

For 10 Military Sealift Command Office Kuwait Reservists serving one-year tours at the Port of Ash Shuaybah in Kuwait, care packages bring a taste and touch of home and the welcome reminder that though they may be gone for a time, they are definitely not forgotten.

While in Kuwait, these Reservists - eight of whom belong to MSC Expeditionary Port Unit 104 based in Syracuse, N.Y. - are responsible for orchestrating the loading and off-loading of MSC cargo ships that carry almost all combat cargo used by U.S. troops in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere in the Middle East.

The unit has been adopted by numerous schools, churches, a Girl Scout troop and many other individual relatives and family friends. The unit arrived in Kuwait in January and has been receiving a steady stream of care packages ever since.

In New Hartford, N.Y., Bradley Elementary School, attended by Storekeeper 2nd Class Mark Stappenback's two children, recently raised more than $500 to send their dad's unit enough Dunkin' Donuts coffee to last until the unit returns home.

Boatswain's Mate 1st Class Chris Loboda
Boatswain's Mate 1st Class Chris Loboda, from MSCO Kuwait, shows off the goodies and art he has received from the United States since he deployed to MSCO Kuwait.

The wife of executive officer, Navy Cmdr. Bill Powers, is a teacher's aide at Margaret Brent Elementary School in Stafford, Va.

"She helps with a couple fourth- and fifth-grade classes and mentioned that I had been activated and sent to Kuwait for a year," said Powers. "The teachers and kids made Valentine's Day cards and posters for us, and most of the students wrote letters."

In her civilian life, MSCO Kuwait Command Chief Melody Anderson is a reading teacher at Benjamin Franklin Elementary in New York. When she deployed, the teachers and their students at the school began sending her a series of 50 care packages in honor of her recent 50th birthday.

Anderson's neighbor also linked the unit up with The Fairy Godmothers, a whimsically named group of dogooders from New York.

"They send us a 15- to 20-pound box of goodies every month," said Anderson, "everything from socks to homemade cookies."

Aside from the care-package staples - cookies, candy, toiletries, magazines and letters from home - things like water pistols, holiday decorations and even a CD of Superbowl commercials have been a big hit with the troops.

Chocolate and hand sanitizer rank among the favorite items the unit has received. Some things, however, like 500 individual packets of Preparation H, are slightly harder to put to good use.

The Reservists are thrilled with every box they receive and every letter they read, but the perfect care package may be impossible to send. "Mine would have a real pizza, half-moon cookies and Ben and Jerry's Karamel Sutra Ice Cream," said Boatswain's Mate 1st Class Chris Loboda. "And my wife and kids, too."