Stateside support groups send Christmas trees to JJB troops

Story and photo illustration by Spc. Michael Camacho
139th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) Public Affairs

JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq — The spirit of the season has not been forgotten at Joint Base Balad, Iraq.

The 332nd Expeditionary Force Support Squadron is scheduled to receive 80 Christmas trees from Dees’ Nursery and Florist in Ocean Side, N.Y., said Capt. Katie Garski, community service flight commander with the 332nd EFSS. The trees, which were delayed in transport from Dees’ Maine nursery, will be distributed to Army and Air Force units at JBB, she said.

The nursery and the Adopt a Soldier Platoon, Inc., an organization dedicated to the morale and welfare of deployed service members, worked in conjunction with DHL Express to donate the trees to troops in Iraq, she said.

Alan Krutchkoff, president and founder of the Adopt a Soldier Platoon, Inc., a nonprofit organization out of New Jersey, said they have facilitated events for deployed service members since April 2003.

The organization supports all military branches and components that are deployed to Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan, he said.

"Our mission is to improve the morale of our troops," said Krutchkoff, a Fair Lawn, N.J., native.

The group works heavily with DHL and more than 15 other sponsors and local organizations in the New Jersey and New York area. DHL’s ‘Trees for Troops’ program has shipped trees to Iraq and Afghanistan since early in Operation Iraqi Freedom and has been a huge morale booster for deployed service members, he said

This is the fourth year DHL and the Adopt a Soldier Platoon have worked together to send Christmas trees to units deployed in the Middle East, he said.

Groups and organizations back home will always try to find a way to help those who are deployed, Garsky said.

"They wanted to support those that are serving overseas during the Christmas time," said Garski, a Fargo, N.D., native. "It gives people a touch of home."

The trees will be passed to units at JBB who request them on a first come first served basis, said Senior Master Sgt. Michael Jones, superintendent of community flight services with the 332nd EFSS.

It is relatively easy to get a fake tree online and have it shipped here in a few days, said Jones, an Indianapolis native. But it would not have that authentic pine tree feel, nor would it fulfill the spirit of the season many service members grew up with, he said.

The organization also donated menorahs for Jewish service members, which will be given to the chapel to be distributed, he said.

"To have real trees with the smell of pine and things of that nature, it symbolizes one of the attributes of Christmas," said Jones. "It’s like a hallmark, it’s the same thing as snow. To have real trees with the associated decorations will be a tremendous morale booster."

First Lt. Herbert Karg, executive officer with the 716th Quartermaster Company, 80th Ordnance Battalion, 90th Sustainment Brigade, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), said the 716th is slated to receive four Christmas trees.

"It’s Iraq, we don’t get snow here and the unit comes from the north eastern part of the United States," said Karg, an Oil City, Penn., native.

Serving their country overseas is no simple task, said Krutchkoff.

"We love our troops and feel it’s our civic duty to support them and let them know America cares about them," he said.

 

news photo
An Army patrol cap hangs on a small Christmas tree adorning a desk top at Joint Base Balad, Iraq. The 332nd Expeditionary Force Support Squadron is scheduled to receive 80 Christmas trees from Dees’ Nursery and Florist in Ocean Side, N.Y., and will be distributed to Army and Air Force units at JBB.