[ The Real McCoy Online Home ]                                                                                                                    August 22, 2008

AAFES employee returns from duty supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom

By Tom Michele, The Real McCoy Contributor

The most important part of Melinda Johnsonís six months in Balad, Iraq, was helping keep up the morale of U.S. troops.

Photo: AAFES employee Melinda Johnson returns from duty supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. (Photo by Tom Michele)

Johnson, a sales associate in the Military Clothing Sales Store at the Fort McCoy Post Exchange (PX), worked at the U.S. PX in Balad from Dec. 2, 2007 to June 12, 2008.

"I love my job at Fort McCoy," Johnson said, "Iíve been here two years, but it is quieter and slower here in the winter months. My boss, Chad Brazil, had gone to Kuwait to work in a PX before I went, and he said it was an awesome experience."

"So, I wanted to go where it would be busy, and be with Soldiers," Johnson said.

Johnson worked as an assistant manager at an Army and Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) PX at Logistics Support Area Anaconda. "The store was almost as large as the one at Fort McCoy. I was the manager of half of the store, mostly working with electronics, civilian clothing for civilian contractors (U.S. Army personnel are always in ACUs or Army PTs), shoes, greeting cards, gifts and military items. Everything but food," she said.

"The Soldiers want to talk to somebody and see a new face other than just their buddies. Greeting us at the PX helped keep their spirits up," she said.

"The Soldiers want to talk to somebody and see a new face other than just their buddies."

Melinda Johnson,
Sales Associate,
Military Clothing Sales Store

Johnson said she was surprised at the living conditions the Soldiers and she had at Anaconda. "I expected tents, but we had trailers, with three separate rooms in a trailer that had air conditioning and laminated floors," Johnson said.

She said, "The air was different in Iraq. I canít explain it. It is always thick with sand from the occasional sandstorms. The whole sky turns orange. The temperature was 125 degrees the day I left. It is like being in an oven."

Another observation: "What was really cool was the base was completely surrounded by sunflowers outside the wire around the entire base," she said.

Otherwise there is very little vegetation.

When asked if she would like to go again, she replied, "Definitely, if I get a chance through AAFES."


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