By Army Sgt. Marty Borton
CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait – The volunteers who come to work for the USO locations in the U.S. Army Central area of operations work long hours to help support service members. Most of these volunteers are civilians who want to support the military any way they can, and some are even veterans. USO Camp Arifjan is home to Staff Sgt. Heaven Howes, an Army reservist.
Howes, a transportation movement specialist, is assigned to the 940th Movement Control Team, out of Fort Sheridan, Illinois.
“Ironically enough, as a service member, she is one of the very people that the USO supports,” said Jessica Shelton, a programs coordinator and duty manger at USO Camp Arifjan. “Here she is doing what she can on the civilian side to continue supporting the troops.”
Howes’ duties at the USO include balancing monthly accounts, assisting with the volunteer programs and upkeep of the center.
“She became the main person that I would observe to see how a center is run,” said Aubree Minakami, the social media and family services coordinator and duty manager at USO Camp Arifjan. “I’m very glad of that, she is very professional on top of everything she does.”
Shelton said Howes’ experiences have had a huge impact when it comes to her position with the USO.
“She always has the USO mission in mind and tries to make this center a home away from home for our patrons,” Shelton said.
“It is a privilege to provide our [service members] with a home away from home by working to supply them with a place of refuge, relaxation, entertainment, solace, comfort and ways to connect to home or with others,” Howes said.
Her actions and accommodating nature does not stop just at the troops who visit the USO. She also jokes and plays pranks on other volunteers and co-workers. However, when there is work to do, she always places the mission first.
“Heaven is a big goofball, but when it comes down to completing a task she is full steam ahead and ready to go,” Shelton said. “She has an awesome work ethic … and she will go above and beyond for everyone around her.”
Those around Howes also say her values and personal courage make a lasting impression.
“She’s fearless and flexible and she shows people you can do anything you can set your mind to,” Minakami said.
As with many in the Army, Howes enlisted at an early age in search of advancing herself personally and professionally.
“I enlisted into the military at 17 and left for [basic training] when I was 18 years old. I joined the military because I desired a greater sense of purpose,” she said. “I wanted to experience new opportunities, educate myself, and be financially independent.”
Howes’ career has provided her many opportunities to gain knowledge: two separate deployments to Afghanistan, an assignment to Italy and often travels to around the U.S. in support of Army missions.
“The experiences the military has given me is something I would not have been able to achieve had I not joined,” she said.
Howes believes her life lessons have helped her understand how to better engage and support all those who come visit the USO center.
“I hope my intimate knowledge of the military allows me to better support the troops here at Camp Arifjan. We are still one team, one fight – even if I am on the other side of the house at the USO,” Howes said. “The greatest honor about working as a duty manager for the USO at Camp Arifjan is that I am able to provide support to my sisters and brothers in arms in such a different capacity.”
-Army Sgt. Marty Borton is with U.S. Army Central.