Sometimes a man must wear a smile

By Pfc. Abel Trevino
28th Public Affairs Detachment

LOGISTICS SUPPORT AREA ANACONDA, Balad, Iraq — Patrick Okojie is the new manager at the LSA Anaconda movie theater, but he is no stranger to Iraq. In the last 11 months Okojie has managed several Army Air Force Exchange Services facilities in country, and has come to this post with a purpose.

"They are working on bringing [restaurants] here," Okojie said, "so they need me here to help."

But that's a different story.

Hector Ortiz, the current manager at Sustainer Theater, is leaving LSA Anaconda and returning to his home in Oklahoma.

"[I've been] the envy of every AAFES manager in Iraq," Ortiz said. "I've got the best job. I'm the manager of a movie theater."

After a six-month tour it's time to return to family and that comfortable life stateside.

"I'm going back to Tinker Air Force Base (Okla.), that's my home station." Ortiz explained. "I tell you, it's going to be hard to leave here. I've met a lot of good people."

And here is where Okojie comes into the picture. Since arriving in Iraq in September 2003, Okojie was the post exchange manager in Taji for 10 months and a food service manager at Victory North for three weeks. He too has a home station.

"I [was] a Burger King and Popeye's manager at Fort Stewart, Ga.," said Okojie.

Okojie has spent an abundance of time away from his family and volunteered to extend an additional six months in Iraq.

"I extended because I like to work with the Soldiers," he said with a proud smile. "The [United States] has given a lot to me and my family and the only way I can pay them back is being deployed [alongside the troops]."

Okojie presented himself as a man with a mission, only his mission is different from the average deployed Soldier.

He has the kind of smile people don't often see in a combat zone, the kind of smile that belongs to a man who knows he's doing a great job and he's only going to get better.

He has a gregarious personality that shines through as he greets patrons of the Sustainer Theater here. The people seem to be the key to his appetite.

He goes where the Soldiers go, he goes where the action is. Okojie is no stranger to being deployed with Soldiers.

"I was deployed for one year in Kosovo, so this is my second deployment," he said.

Like most deployed personnel, Okojie misses his family, but he knows they support his decision to face the opposition and endorse the troops abroad the best way he can.

"They understand I am doing this to take care of the Soldiers who have given a lot to our family," he said.

Originally from Nigeria, Okojie came to the United States in 1981 to study at Bishop College in Dallas, Texas, with a double major in business administration and political science. He holds dual citizenship in both countries.

Okojie said he views Soldiers with a high respect. He often thinks of the sacrifices they make and this is his way of giving back, by dedicating his time to ensuring when service members are away from home, they enjoy the comforts of home.

Editor's Note: Pfc. Trevino is assigned to the 28th Public Affairs Detachment from Fort Lewis, Wash. He is currently deployed to Iraq in support of the 13th Corps Support Command at LSA Anaconda.

 

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Patrick Okojie, new manager at the LSA Anaconda movie theater