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Sadina's Tree | First Christmas at FOB Hammer
Sometimes simplest is best. So it turned out in 2007 when I was the Morale Welfare and Recreation (MWR) Supervisor for FOB Hammer in Iraq. The Forward Operating Base had been established in March of 2007 and I, being a diligent MWR supervisor ordered Christmas Decorations for the Recreation Areas in June. Well the supply line was even longer than we had thought and I was getting worried about mid November when no decorations had shown up yet and I couldn’t get any good status on where the supplies were at in the chain other than I knew they had been purchased but were somewhere ‘On The Way’.
In past years friends of mine and my wife’s had donated supplies and decorations for the troops, but the recession was already hitting many and replies to my emails were essentially “Sorry just can’t help this year.” I had a few bits and bobs I had sent from home the last time I had been on R&R but they were precious few. To top it all off the Chaplains and the Command had requested a Christmas Carol session in the City Center to be followed by a Bonfire. So here we are on Christmas Eve, definitely needed a Christmas Tree in a hurry, and with the Brigade Chaplain, The Brigade Commander, and a host of assorted brass sure to attend, not to mention a couple of hundred troops looking for some Christmas Spirit, I was beginning to feel the bullets pop out from under my skin in a cold hard sweat.
I inventoried what little I had, 1 ea six foot artificial tree, two strands of silver tinsel, one strand of Red tinsel, a box of candy canes, 1 ea red 12 ft Rope light, and a couple boxes of Christmas cards. No ornaments, no twinkle lights, none of the usual stuff.
Now you should understand that my MWR team at FOB Hammer was a multi-national, multi-cultural group of folks with very diverse backgrounds. I had American, Bosnian, Pakistani, Indian, and Nepalese folks, some had backgrounds in Recreation, but most did not. All but one or two spoke English, but for most it was a second language. All of this leading me into my great idea of the season. Sadina, had come to work for MWR from the laundry section. Her background in Bosnia had been in housekeeping for the American Camps there and she had been in country for just a few months but working in the laundry. I was short handed at the time and the laundry was able to get by as they had a couple extra sub-contractor folks and they were meeting their deadlines with no issues. In the few weeks she had worked for MWR, Sadina had shown a knack for decorating ( she was an ace at folding clothes too, I think they go hand in hand) so I gathered up the box of supplies, along with the tree and put them center stage on the outdoor stage in City Center, and Called her on the radio to meet me there. The rest of the staff was busy operating the internet café, the gym, and the rec tent, and I had a meeting to go to to coordinate the music for the singing.
When she got there I said, “Sadina, you have been doing a good job since you’ve been with us and I have a project for you. See that Christmas tree?” She replied in the affirmative. “Make it look pretty all I’ve got for decorations are in the Box.” I looked at my watch, “You’ve got three hours, call me on the radio when you’re done. Do your best.” She looked at me like I had just killed a puppy or something equally brutal but she hadn’t been with us long and arguing with her supervisor was not something she was ready to try yet. So off I went hoping she would figure something out or find a way to scrounge some more stuff.
After the meeting I was on my way to check on her when she called me on the radio, “Hammer Jammer 1 this is Hammer Jammer 10 please come to City Center” It had only been a little more than an hour and I figured something was amiss or she was gonna plead and beg for help and more stuff, none of which I had, so as I rounded the corner I was starting to think of what I would have to say to the chaplain and the commander, and my Camp Manager, When I saw what you see below.
Later that night the Brigade Chaplain remarked the it was the Best Damned Tree on the FOB, so I introduced him to Sadina and he asked her where she was from, She replied “Bosnia” and the Chaplain sort of hiked up one of his eyebrows and asked “Are you Muslim then?” Sadina got a worried look on her face but nodded her head in the affirmative. The Chaplain then gave her a big hug and said it again, “Thanks for the Best Damned Tree on the FOB.”
By the way, Sadina is still serving at FOB Hammer in the MWR Department, the decorations I had ordered finally came in late January, so the need for the ‘Field Expedient Decorations’ are long past. But I think this serves as a reminder, that even in these trying times, simplest is sometimes best. “Peace on Earth Good Will Towards Man.”
God Bless you Sadina and may he see you home safe one day.
Hammer Jammer 1 - Out