More than a half ton of supplies was shipped from Swiftships to U.S. Army troops in Afghanistan in the first of what is expected to become a monthly shipment dubbed “Project Comfort and Relief”. Morgan Rhoades and family member Kaylee Robinson, wife of nine-year Army veteran Sergeant First Class (SFC) Joel Robinson, wanted to show their support to the troops her husband is serving with and bring them a little bit of the comforts of home as they serve their country in the isolated regions of Afghanistan.
The family of SFC Robinson recruited local businesses and schools to join them in collecting hygiene supplies and non-perishable foods for Project Comfort and Relief.
Morgan Rhoades, Swiftships’ Public Relations representative, recruited the help of fellow employees at Swiftships to help aid in her family’s efforts to support the troops. Swiftships soon became the main drop-off location for donations.
“We received outpouring support for the troops from both the local schools and businesses. We had boxes everywhere and we still have donations coming in.” said Rhoades.
In just one month, 1,200 pounds of supplies was raised and ready for shipment; however, transporting the colossal package seemed impossible. After receiving a great deal of support within Swiftships’ workforce and determined to deliver the care package, Rhoades decided to seek help from Swiftships’ management. Sheraze Shah, CEO of Swiftships, agreed to cover 100% of the shipping fees.
“At Swiftships we make every effort to support military members,” Shah stated “When Ms. Rhoades approached me with the concern of our troops not being able to receive the goods our community generously donated; it was no issue for Swiftships to absorb the cost of shipping the much needed supplies.” Upon shipping the 1,200 pound care package to Afghanistan, an additional $3,540 fee was applied for shipping charges from Bagram Airfield (BAF) to SFC Robinson’s combat outpost (COP). With roughly 150 miles separating the package from its final destination, ground transport was declared too dangerous for delivery. The additional transportation fees plus the original shipping cost would have totaled close to $6,000. After three weeks in storage at BAF and concerned that all of the generosity received from the community would be for nothing, Rhoades turned to the Army for help in arranging assistance in delivering the care package to its final destination.
Major General (Ret.) Gale Pollock, who currently serves on Swiftships Executive Board, was informed by Rhoades of the roadblock in shipping the colossal care package and immediately offered to help.
“I spent 36 years taking care of soldiers and I know how important those packages from home are for them. I was happy to get the right people engaged as the Army does a great job taking care of their soldiers. This was an easy problem to solve; they are not all that easy” – General Pollock.
General Pollock identified the need to Army leadership; first she contacted the office of the Army Surgeon General and asked her staff to identify the right individuals to speak with in the Pentagon. General Pollock was connected to the Adjutant General’s team. This was the right team because one of their many responsibilities is the mail. Their Executive Officer, Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) Kim Chaney, immediately accepted responsibility to making sure that the donations from Swiftships to one of “their” Army units would get delivered. LTC Chaney coordinated all the conversations inside Afghanistan to insure the packages were accepted from and then delivered to the soldiers in Robinson’s unit.
The 909th Postal Platoon from the 909th Human Resources Company (POSTAL), 382nd Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, Fort Lewis, WA, handled and effected final coordination for local airlift.
“We are incredibly thankful for the support we received from General Pollock and Colonel Chaney, without their assistance and support everything we were able to raise could have been shipped back to the United States.” said Rhoades.
Joel Robinson and Battle Company left Fort Drum in Watertown, NY, for Afghanistan on October 31, 2013, and they are expected to be deployed for nine months.