This week I sat down with Rowan student, Maria Brasco to speak to her on her experience as a Marine Girlfriend. Maria is 21 and missing her boyfriend, Taj who is currently serving his final deployment as a Marine in Japan. Maria shared with me the hardships of being away from the person you love, the obstacles they face as a couple, and what helps them going.
On Thursday October 10, I attended a support group in Blackwood, NJ for family members with loved ones away, veterans, and supporters. When I walked into the American Legion Stetser-Lamartine Post 281 in Blackwood, NJ, I had no idea what I was about to encounter.
The Military Support Group of NJ is an organization that is ran by Rowan Alumn Karen Jennings, a Marine Mom that withstood the heartache of her son serving 3 times overseas with little communication each time. She felt alone, and knew there were others that felt the same. She decided to pour her heart and soul into the organization, making it what it is today.
Upon her arrival, Karen was bombarded with gift baskets, packaged goods, canned food, and toiletries all to be organized and sent off to their respective bases to go out to the men who need them the most. “When you’re in the middle east a pop tart can taste like a steak”, I listened as Karen explained to me the methods and decision making behind care packages. My favorite tip: never mix toiletries and food. No one wants deodorant flavored mashed potatoes.
I highly encourage anyone in the area that is struggling or just interested in helping or meeting people with similar interests to attend the meetings and introduce yourself to these welcoming, wonderful people.
The U.S. Government shutdown has raised many questions for military families. Along with the shutdown came the ‘Pay Our Military Act’, implemented on the first of the month, the act promises active military members on duty to still receive ‘pay and allowances’.
What the Act does not cover is the transportation of four American soldiers’ bodies back to the Dover, Delaware Air Force Base. This, along with a $100,000 death gratuity to the soldiers’ families, is a fee that the Pentagon would normally cover, however with the shutdown still in affect, this is a fee that has been post-poned.
The families of the four soldiers’ have agreed to travel to the Dover base to meet their fallen loved ones, thanks to the Army Ranger Fund willing to pay expenses. There has been no statement made on whether or not travel expenses will be covered for the families. Once the government shutdown has ended, the death gratuities will be given to the families, and perhaps a reimbursement of the burial costs.
Since the start of this blog I’ve mentioned my Dad, Steve Turdo, numerous times. My father has worked for the U.S. government for over 36 years in many different positions. He has surrounded himself with the work he loves and with that has grown to expand is knowledge, experiences and even better himself through education. He is a Rowan Alumn, gaining his bachelors in 2006 and is currently working towards his masters.
I’ve always been proud of the work ethic my father possesses and have tried to emulate the same in my own work. For as long as I can remember I’ve always thought my Dad had the coolest job. Whenever I was asked what my dad does for a living I of course was honored to respond with “U.S. Department of Defense”. That honor is now larger than ever, now that my answer has been replaced with “He manages DCMA employees on base in Northern Afghanistan”.
This weekend my dad had a full schedule of traveling, and assessing other bases. He still found the opportunity to answer some questions I had for him via email about his position, experience so far, and expectations. As proud as I am of everything he’s done, I’m even more proud to share it with others.
Name: Stephen Turdo
Birthplace: Philadelphia, PA
Current Location: Bargam Airfield Base, in the Parwan Province, Afghanistan
Q. What is your position?
A. Defense Contract Management Agency Northern Afghanistan Chief of Staff
Q. How long have you been away from home?
A. Since June 29th, 2013. I will return in May 2014.
Q. What do your daily duties consist of?
A. Day to day operations for a command of about 70 people, workload balancing, supervisor and personnel issues for about 30 civilian employees
Q. What has been the biggest transition for you since you’ve been away?
A. Lack of indoor plumbing. And the realization that we are supporting the men and women that are here fighting and protecting our way of life. They are eating and sharing the same confined base with us and what we do is in direct support of their mission.
Q. Does the culture influence you on the base? If so, how?
A. Yes, there are individuals from the militaries of the coalition forces, the local nationals that work on the base, as well as citizens from other countries working for the contractors providing services to the military. They are all interesting and they all have their own reasons for being here. When I arrived, the only people I knew were the people I trained with for the deployment and some of the individuals that I communicated with prior to coming to Afghanistan
Q. Have you formed any kind of relationship with the soldiers on your base?
A. Yes, about half of our staff in Northern Afghanistan is military, and the other two offices are about half military and we deal with them on a daily basis. I talk to the Airmen and Soldiers everyday, part of my responsibilities include working with the soldiers and briefing new employees when they arrive and out-briefing and receiving feedback as they leave. We discuss everyday work activities as well as their job back in the States, their families and where they are from. My boss is a Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force.
Q. What is the hardest thing been for you since you’ve been there?
A. Not being able to have a diversion from my routine. Although I have traveled to other bases in Northern Afghanistan it would be nice to have a day or two to attend or participate in other activities.
Q. Has your communication differed with your family at home?
A. Somewhat, I am able to communicate almost on a daily basis. Either through the Internet using Wifi or using the voice over IP office phones
Q. What is the first thing you’re looking forward to when you come home?
A. Seeing my family! Being able to go and do what I want, currently we work seven days a week and cannot leave the base. We travel between bases either in airplanes or on helicopters only seeing outside the base from the air.