Camp Zama residents launch clothing drive
August 24, 2003
CAMP ZAMA, Japan — Camp Zama residents are looking for used T-shirts, shorts, shower shoes and even swimwear.
There’s no clothes shortage at this small Army post near Tokyo, but a handful of spouses and soldiers want to make rest and relaxation time more comfortable for the thousands of troops traveling through Camp As Sayliyah, Qatar, from Iraq and Afghanistan.
Spouses Dominique Unrein and Jennifer Moreno are spearheading the drive through 78th Signal Battalion’s Family Readiness Group at Camp Zama.
Unrein’s husband, Army Sgt. Lee Unrein, a computer technician with the battalion, has been at Camp As Sayliyah since February.
He forwarded his wife an e-mail from Army Capt. Eric Clark, a camp public affairs officer, seeking civilian clothes for servicemembers on a four-day visit.
Moreno, who heads the family group with Unrein, received the same e-mail forwarded from Lt. Col. William Montgomery, the battalion’s commander.
The two mentioned it at a group meeting last month, and donations have piled up.
“We sent off a box the other day, and have one more to send tomorrow,” Unrein said recently.
Clark, in an e-mail interview, said more than 2,500 troops have come to Camp As Sayliyah for “R&R” since the Fighter Management Program began July 18.
The program provides four days’ rest to troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan who have been deployed for at least 90 days.
About 120 servicemembers, from all military branches and some coalition forces, arrive daily, he said. The camp has many amenities including a full-service post exchange, a movie theater, all-ranks club, Olympic-size swimming pool and tennis and basketball courts.
Troops also are able to take trips in Qatar to local malls, five-star hotels and restaurants, beaches, museums, and markets, Clark said.
The problem is, he said, many of the troops arrive at camp with only desert camouflage uniforms.
“Because these military members deployed to fight a war, they did not bring many — if any — civilian clothing to be able to relax in,” he wrote.
Spc. Andrew D. Lauer, 27, from Santa Rosa, Calif., arrived at Camp As Sayliyah last week with two pieces of civilian clothing: A pair of jeans and a button-down shirt.
“If they didn’t have the donated clothing to select from, I’d have to buy some clothes,” he e-mailed Stripes. “So this is great, having donated clothing to select from.”
Lauer, with the 74th Dive Unit, has been deployed for five months; he and his unit are stationed at Camp Iron Horse in Tikrit, Iraq.
After five months in desert camouflage fatigues, he said, “It feels unbelievable to have time away from Iraq.”
Clark said with the daily influx of servicemembers, the camp’s post exchange can’t keep up with the demand for civilian clothes.
Most in demand, he said, are slacks for men and women, including blue jeans and khakis: “To respect local customs, military members must be in long pants before they’re allowed off-post.”
Qatar’s summer heat also has created a need for shorts, T-shirts, tank tops, flip-flops and swimwear, Clark said.
Moreno encouraged people to include notes with their donation: “Let the soldiers know we appreciate them,” she said.
Unrein said helping with the clothes drive makes her feel closer to her husband, who’s scheduled to be deployed for a year.
“I’m a part of what he’s doing,” she said.
Montgomery, the 78th Signal Battalion commander, said the clothes drive is a great opportunity for anyone to help servicemembers deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.
“By just giving something as simple as old clothes, they can make a dramatic difference to folks that they’ll never meet,” he said.
Clothes donations can be sent directly to Camp As Sayliyah at: USCENTCOM, CCJ6, APO AE 09365, Attn: As Sayliyah Clothing Drive.
Clark noted that the camp already has received clothes donations from the States and notes from people in Washington, D.C.; Alexandria, Va.; Dallas and several California cities that are conducting “R&R” clothing drives.
Unrein and Moreno said Camp Zama donations may be dropped off at the 78th Signal Battalion’s headquarters, Building 123, at Camp Zama.
The boxes take about five to six days to arrive at Camp As Sayliyah by mail, Unrein said, noting postage costs nothing because the clothing parcels may be shipped via the Military Postal System.