359th TTSB Soldiers represent Army in care drop

By: Army Capt. Michelle Lunato

Bagram, Afghanistan – A few Soldiers of the 359th Theater Tactical Signal Brigade represented the Army when a team from Kalitta Air delivered over 125,000 pounds of care packages that came solely from their company.

The Michigan-based company that makes regular overseas military deliveries held a “Support the Troops” donation drive and was overwhelmed at the response, said Cindy Goodboo, special project mail coordinator. Company employees donated time, sundries and money to make the drive successful. And to assist his team in supporting deployed service members, Conrad Kalitta, company owner, matched every dollar his employees put in. In total, the company collected over $55,000 to support the troops, said Jennifer Radtke, Kalitta Air quality control records analyst.

“It was a shocker, and shopping for all that stuff was so much fun.” In addition to the variety of snacks and hygiene items, the care packages included letters and drawings from local schools, iTunes gift cards, and Kalitta Air paraphernalia. “We just wanted to put a smile on all your faces with heartfelt thanks,” said Radtke. The company definitely reached that goal, said Sgt. Maj. John Schiffli, plans and operations sergeant major, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 359th TTSB. “These packages will mean the world to those service members who don’t get a lot of mail from people.”

The giving may have been just as rewarding as the receiving in this case though, said Schiffli as he recalled some of the Kalitta Air personnel were almost in tears when they were greeted on the flight line by thankful Soldiers and Marines. “There is nothing more comforting than to see all these service members,” said Goodboo.

The company runs over 20 monthly overseas trips of “need it now” supplies that range from combat vehicles to pallets of food, but the crew does not normally get to see a lot of troops, said Mike Miller, Kalitta Air captain. So, when they walked out of the plane to cheers and smiling faces from service members ranking from privates to lieutenant colonels, they were deeply touched, said Miller “It makes you feel great that they came out to meet us.” Getting to meet a few of the people who went out of their way to make service members a little more at home and happy was the real honor, though, said Spc. Courtesia Wilson, generator mechanic, HHC, 359th TTSB. “We are appreciated more than we think, and that means a lot.” And considering the vast amount of care packages and the personal delivery when the economy is so tight, “it is a major sacrifice on their part, and we need to be mindful of that,” said Wilson.

The Kalitta Air employees and volunteers, many of whom are former service members themselves, did not consider their efforts to be a sacrifice, but rather one way to show the troops that we care about them, said Goodboo. “They knew what this would mean to the troops overseas and wanted to show their support.”

“After seeing all the sundries come off that plane, I was duly impressed at how much effort and care must have gone into this project,” said Sgt. 1st Class Dan Wallen, plans and operations noncommissioned officer in charge, HHC, 359th TTSB. “It was refreshing to know that so many people still care about us Soldiers.