Gift will help keep soldiers cope with Iraq heat

Published 5:00 am Friday, July 23, 2004

MONTICELLO — A National Guard unit received a large donationThursday in an effort to make their impending deployment to Iraqmore comfortable.

The 106th Support Battalion, headquartered in Monticello,received a shipment of 100 5,000 BTU window air conditioners, 25ice machines and 25 mini-refrigerators from Operation AirConditioner, a non-profit organization based in Delaware.

“It means a lot when someone puts forth the effort to dosomething like this in support of the soldiers,” said Maj. CraigWeaver, executive officer of the 106th. “It shows a lot of caringfor what they go through. That’s a pretty good thing she’s doing.It really is.”

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Operation AC was founded by its President Frankie Mayo, whoseson was stationed in Iraq and told her of the conditions soldierswere living in while safeguarding the Iraqi people, according toSFC Craig Reid, the noncommissioned-officer-in-charge of battalionlogistics.

The organization takes donations of new air conditioners andother needed items from individuals and corporate sponsors anddistributes them to needy soldiers, Reid said. They do not acceptused items.

Reid heard about the organization through a media story andbegan searching the internet for more information. It wasn’t long,he said, before he was talking directly with Mayo. That was onlytwo weeks ago.

“Sergeant Reid started this whole thing. He deserves all thecredit,” Weaver said.

According to Weaver, the National Guard is not equipped tosupply these items to soldiers because the deployment in Iraq wasnot within the expected framework of the unit’s normal range ofdeployment missions.

“The mission of the Army has changed,” he said. “Normally, wewould be deploying to a field environment, but now we’re deployinginto an area that has been stabilized and built up. In anoccupation such as this, we’re trying to determine our needs inadvance and get the jump on it.”

In a field environment, Weaver said, the unit would have to beprepared to move at a moment’s notice and the air conditioners, icemachines and dormitory-style refrigerators would slow them down.Additionally, in that environment, there would be no power sourcefor them to tap into.

However, the mission in Iraq has changed since the war wasdeclared over and temporary fire bases with support elements havebeen established. The semi-permanence of the fire bases has allowedfor the Army to try to provide some comfort to the soldiersstationed there.

“A soldier who sleeps in air conditioning is a whole lot bettersoldier than the one sleeping in the sand,” Weaver said, addingthat a well-rested soldier is more capable of completing a missionand making sound judgments.

Even if the unit were to be deployed to a tent camp, Weaversaid, the capacity to power the units should be available becauseof the semi-permanence of the fire bases.

“We’ve put them on hard stands and surrounded them with a tentbefore just to get some cool air in there. They work fine,” Weaversaid.

Thursday’s shipment may not be all the organization does for theunit, Reid said.

“She told us once we got in country to let her know of anythingelse we need,” he said.

The unit will ship out to Camp Shelby Aug. 17 for training priorto their overseas deployment. A parade is tentatively scheduled forAug. 14 to see them off.