By Nicole Alberico
Even while serving abroad on behalf of our nation, American service members still find time to give back to their communities.
Five soldiers with the 455th Expeditionary Terminal Operations Element (ETOE) in Germany recently received the Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal during a ceremony at USO Baumholder in March 2022.
In addition to the service medal, USO Baumholder presented the 455th soldiers with the Silver Mission Award for outstanding volunteer performance – the first time the Baumholder USO center has ever presented this award.
“Our goal was to fulfill our mission as perfect and best we could, and support the community in which we are stationed,” said Maj. Jody Babineaux, element commander. “We have done both magnificently. I am proud of my unit.”
The 455th ETOE has a footprint in 15-18 different states throughout the U.S. but is based in Europe.
The five soldiers volunteered 4,000 hours in support of USO missions and programs in the Baumholder and Kaiserslautern military communities, as well as in support of the U.S. Army Garrison Rheinland-Pfalz Family & Morale, Welfare and Recreation programs..
Additionally, despite being thousands of miles from home, the soldiers contributed hundreds of hours of work to promote, plan and execute an event benefitting homeless veterans and their families back in St. Louis, Missouri.
The following soldiers received individual awards:
- Sgt. Nicholas J. Tayon for volunteering 1,200 hours.
- Staff Sgt. Robert J. Conlee for volunteering 700 hours.
- Sgt. Benjamin K. Hodgson for volunteering 700 hours.
- Sgt. Marlon L. Manuel for volunteering 700 hours.
- Staff Sgt. Keith J. Priors-Sheary for volunteering 700 hours.
Baumholder’s Military Personnel Division and Installation Access Control System (IACS) were two garrison offices on the receiving end of hundreds of the volunteer hours.
The soldiers leveraged their skills and familiarity with on-base processes by assisting the many service members and military families who PCS to Germany in the summer – the busiest season for military moves. They further assisted with passports, consular birth reports, Status of Forces Agreement cards and issuing new social security numbers.
“They assisted in the establishment of an appointment-based system that ensured soldiers were in-processed within 24 hours of arrival into the DEERS/RAPIDS system,” said Babineaux. “That decreased the customer wait time by over 80% and increased the garrison’s Installation Access Control Service security services.”
These logistical processes can be stressful for service members attempting to settle into a new duty station, and so easing and expediting the process can be incredibly helpful to new arrivals.
The unit’s efforts did not go unnoticed by BMC Deputy Garrison Manager Jae Kim.
“I’ve personally noticed them helping our garrison’s IACS/DEERS/ID Card section operations, but their support didn’t end there,” said Kim. “This unit volunteerism has contributed significantly to the quality of life for the Baumholder Military Community under the resource strained operations during 2021-2022, due to the required COVID-19 mitigation measures to be implemented for all activities.”
When asked how his soldiers found the time to log so many volunteer hours, Babineaux said, “When not on mission, I push my soldiers to be active in the community. Back in the rear, I’m a schoolteacher and baseball coach in Laurel, Mississippi, and I do the same to my athletes. I look at the talent we have and put that talent in the best spot.”
-This story originally appeared on DVIDShub.net. It has been edited for USO.org.
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