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AAFES Rounds Up Troops for Rodeo

By Staff Sgt. Monica R. Garreau, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service

FORWARD OPERATING BASE ASADABAD, Afghanistan, July 30, 2004 – Mention the word "rodeo" and most would think broncs, bulls and buckles. But mention rodeo at many forward operating bases in Afghanistan, and the faces of the coalition members serving there light up with anticipation.

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Clockwise from left: Army Pfc. Katrina Taylor, 2nd Battalion, 265th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, skims through CD titles during the Army and Air Force Exchange Service Rodeo at Forward Operating Base Asadabad, Afghanistan, in mid-July. Photo by Staff Sgt. Monica R. Garreau, USA
  

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Just ask the service members assigned to Forward Operating Base Asadabad. The rodeo to them is the Army and Air Force Exchange Service Rodeo conducted here every month. Although no one knows the origin of the title, the importance of the event is the same.

Since those stationed at these remote bases rarely have the opportunity to shop for personal items such as snacks, hygiene products and entertainment at their locations, AAFES brings the store to them.

"They're glad the rodeo is here," said Marine Cpl. Jeshua Rios of his fellow service members during the AAFES Rodeo here in mid-July. As a forward base cook, Rios sees most of the service members assigned here every day in the chow hall and can tell when their spirits are raised.

"This is a real booster for everybody here," said the Marine from Headquarters and Service Company, 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment.

The monthly visit generates a lot of anticipation. "We look forward to (the rodeo)," said Army Spc. Antonio Gordon, 2nd Battalion, 265th Air Defense Artillery Regiment. "It's a nice way to be able to get the things we need."

But it's not just the opportunity to buy junk food that lifts the troops' spirits. Representatives from the Bagram Air Base Post Office come to process packages being sent home, finance clerks cash checks and dispense cash, and a legal-services soldier answers questions and processes paperwork such as powers of attorney.

Representatives from the Army Reserve Affairs, retention and the Army Continuing Education System offices are also on hand to answer any questions the service members might have.

With all these services available, the rodeo doesn't just provide a huge morale boost to the troops. It also helps their leaders. "Having all the assets come out here to us makes my job a lot easier," said Marine 1st Sgt. Anthony Page, Company K, 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines.

When his Marines have a need that might require them to fly to Bagram Air Base, he can usually tell them to wait for the rodeo to come "and (everything's) all right here."

Page said he sees the difference the four-hour event makes in his Marines. "This is something good for the Marines, good for their morale," he said. "They look forward to this once a month, especially some of the guys we have on the outer posts."

The event is coordinated by representatives from the Combined Joint Task Force 76 personnel section and stops at forward bases in Salerno, Gardez, Tarin Kowt, Jalalabad and Asadabad once a month, said 1st Lt. Linda North, CJTF 76 personnel chief of operations.

To ensure as many service members are being touched by the rodeo as possible, North explained that she is constantly working on ways to improve the program. "Starting in August we're looking at expanding to more forward sites," she said.

But for now, it's a sure bet those who were touched by the rodeo at FOB Asadabad were happy as they filed out, their shopping bags full with CDs, food, fitness supplements and entertainment accessories.

The only complaint of the day: "They need more junk food," said Gordon, who was unable to find any snacks when he arrived. Eager to provide an explanation for the disappointment, he added with a laugh, "But I got here late."

(Army Staff Sgt. Monica R. Garreau is assigned to the 17th Public Affairs Detachment.)

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Army and Air Force Exchange Service

Click photo for screen-resolution imageMarine Lance Cpls. Eric Smith, left, and Michael Williamson, Company K, 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines, discuss diet supplements while shopping at the Army and Air Force Exchange Service Rodeo in mid-July at Forward Operating Base Asadabad, Afghanistan. Photo by Staff Sgt. Monica R. Garreau, USA   
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageKathleen Connelly, left, education services officer, discusses different college options with Army Spc. Brian King, 2nd Battalion, 265th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, during the Army and Air Force Exchange Service rodeo in mid-July at Forward Operating Base Asadabad, Afghanistan. Representatives from the Army Reserve Affairs, retention and the Army Continuing Education System offices join the rodeo to answer any questions service members might have. Photo by Staff Sgt. Monica R. Garreau, USA   
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