KIRKUK AIR BASE, Iraq -- They live in conditions their counterparts back home would frown upon. They are aware they could come under attack at any time and possibly lose their lives. They endure the fatigue from working long hours in temperatures hotter than 100 degrees. But one thing makes them different from the military serving here: They did not have to be here. They are volunteers hoping to do their part in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Chris Holifield from the Army and Air Force Exchange Service at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, said he received the call to become the base exchange manager here in mid-June.
I was honored, excited and nervous, Holifield said. This is my first deployment. I felt honored because I was given the opportunity, excited because this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and nervous because of the potential danger that could come with this area.
Holifield said he also took the position for the challenge and the experience, and it is a duty he will always remember.
Volunteering is my way to show the appreciation for what the troops are doing, he said. It brings a little piece of home to them, and it is also a way for me to increase the morale of the troops that are here. Not everyone gets to show their appreciation by volunteering in this way.
Holifield is joined by six other AAFES workers who come from bases throughout the United States and Germany.
AAFES employees stationed here are assigned to the area for three to six months.
Nicole Smith is also from AAFES at Sheppard. She said this has been a terrific experience for her.
Ive been trying to come over here for two years, she said. Now that Im here, I want to do my part and help out.
Smith, who has been deployed for four months, started her tour at a forward-operations location during the heat of the war.
It was tough at first because I helped send off the (Armys) 3rd (Infantry Division) to Iraq to fight the war, she said. When I saw them come back, it was very rewarding. They showed me pictures and told me help was needed in Iraq; so Im glad to be here helping out.
Tom Williams, an AAFES sales-area manager from Robins AFB, Ga., said the assignment brings him back to the days he deployed while in the military.
When I was in, I looked forward to going to the exchange, Williams said. Now Im on the other side of the fence, and I want to make sure (the military members) have what they need.
Williams said he does not hold back if people ask him what it was like to deploy.
If youre willing to do without the small things to help other people, its worth it, he said.
Smith said deploying is something people have to be dedicated to do.
You have to look at the big picture and thats helping the (troops), she said.