In Poland, Deployed Army Unit Builds an Oasis With the Help of USO2GO Kits

By Master Sgt. Ryan C. Matson

The small base camp on Swietoszow, Poland, may only be home to a couple hundred soldiers, but that didn’t stop Sgt. Levi Proctor and 1st Lt. Matthew Harper from making it as comfortable as possible.

The two soldiers run the mayor cell at Sweitoszow, which means they are responsible for managing and improving daily life-support operations for the U.S. soldiers stationed there. This ranges from providing things like laundry and shower services to working to improve the quality of chow served in the dining facility.

“Some small upgrades in the day-to-day quality of life make a huge difference in the morale of the soldiers here, especially with everything going on in the world now,” Proctor said.

One of the biggest improvements Proctor and Harper said they were able to make during their time here was setting up a bigger and better recreational area for the soldiers on Swietoszow. This area serves as a “lounge” for the soldiers there – a place to go and blow off steam.

Photo credit Army Master Sgt. Ryan C. Matson

Army 1st Lt. Matthew Harper and Army Reserve Sgt. Levi Proctor.

Starting from Scratch

While recreational area had previously existed in two small rooms on a different location on the base camp, it only had the basics and was rarely visited.

“Nobody ever came down there,” Proctor said. “The lights didn’t work and it was pretty much abandoned.”

“It was a ton of storage, bubble wrap” Harper said. “This was the area where whenever a unit would leave, they’d just leave their extra stuff here.”

“From units ago, not the previous unit, like several units ago,” Proctor added.

Proctor and Harper spent a couple days clearing out and consolidating the clutter in the two rooms and moved the items from the upstairs into the newly-opened area. Then, they got a call from another unit on base who had a soldier, Spc. Elise Kuczera, who wanted to volunteer to improve the recreational area, too.

Proctor and Harper didn’t know it yet, but they had found the perfect person to help build a top-notch area to relax.

Kuczera, a civilian firefighter, had served as a resident assistant while attending Frostburg State University, so she had a proven history of organizing and setting up events and places to host them. Furthermore, she had studied parks and recreation in university.

“This [managing a place to relax] is something that I’ve always wanted to do,” Kuczera said.

“She took it to the next level and beyond,” Proctor said.

Kuczera spent each night for several weeks cleaning, arranging and organizing the new area.

“I just tried to organize things into functional areas,” Kuczera said. “I made it in a way so that it was inviting – people would want to come down here and stay more than five minutes to grab a snack.”

Elbow Grease, Ingenuity and USO2GO Kits

As Kuczera organized and set things up, Proctor worked to get her new items to make the recreational area better.

Early in the year, before the COVID-19 pandemic, he wrote to the USO and applied for its USO2GO program, which sends kits featuring some of the small comforts of home to service members in remote locations.

These customizable kits can include everything from furniture and electronics to gaming and music equipment. USO2GO kits can also include toiletries, snacks and other necessities that keep our men and women in uniform relaxed and revitalized.

Photo credit Army Master Sgt. Ryan C. Matson

Army Spc. Elise Kuczera stands at the entrance to the MWR area April 7 on Swietoszow base camp in Poland.

In Proctor’s case, he applied for USO2GO kits that featured furniture, snacks and toiletries. Proctor’s USO2GO kits were shipped to him in February and he received them this spring.

He also acquired numerous other care packages that had been donated to the previous unit on the base camp. Further, Proctor and Harper helped fill the recreational area with permanent furniture, like loveseats, utilizing extra furniture from another base camp.

Additionally, Proctor cleared out one of the rooms in the basement and organized the books into a library and reading room across from the main recreational area, complete with a space where soldiers with children could read books to their children over the internet.

Proctor said that largely due to Kuczera’s efforts, the recreational area has not had any lost equipment, is open for extended hours, and is always clean and organized, making it comfortable for the soldiers to use.

A New Oasis to Relax and Unwind

Now, when soldiers go down the stairs to the lounge, they walk in the door and have a completely new experience than before.

Once they sign in, they can help themselves to all sorts of free personal care supplies – everything from toothbrushes and shampoos to rifle slings. Then, to the left of the door is a large couch with a wide-screen TV and a video game center.

Photo credit Army Master Sgt. Ryan C. Matson

The reading area in the MWR area April 7 on Swietoszow base camp in Poland.

Along the wall opposite the entrance is a line of USO tables with several computers on them, which Proctor and Harper were able to get connected to Wi-Fi for soldier use. Along this wall there is also a microwave, coffee and other supplies and trays of a wide variety of snacks and comfort foods.

The room also has a sitting area with couches and love seats behind the computer lab area. The sitting area opens up into a movie theater with a large library of DVDs.

Proctor and Harper have made many improvements to the base camp at Swietoszow during their time as a mayor cell team, however the recreational area stands out as a favorite accomplishment.

“It’s something nice for the soldiers,” Proctor said.

Editor’s note: Currently, the USO is prioritizing the delivery of USO2GO kits to those service members who have been activated in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, both in the U.S. and overseas. Several USO2GO kits have already been sent to bases and military installations, and the USO will continue to adjust to this rapidly changing situation, delivering USO2GO kits as needed.

-This story originally appeared on dvidshub.net. It has been edited for USO.org.

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