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Michele Sharpley, FOB Loyalty Morale, Welfare and Recreation technician, relaxes with her husband, Bobby Ray Sharpley, who also works for KBR and is stationed at Camp Liberty in Baghdad.

Michele Sharpley, FOB Loyalty Morale, Welfare and Recreation technician, relaxes with her husband, Bobby Ray Sharpley, who also works for KBR and is stationed at Camp Liberty in Baghdad. (Lisa Burgess / S&S)

Michele Sharpley, FOB Loyalty Morale, Welfare and Recreation technician, relaxes with her husband, Bobby Ray Sharpley, who also works for KBR and is stationed at Camp Liberty in Baghdad.

Michele Sharpley, FOB Loyalty Morale, Welfare and Recreation technician, relaxes with her husband, Bobby Ray Sharpley, who also works for KBR and is stationed at Camp Liberty in Baghdad. (Lisa Burgess / S&S)

Pfc. Christiaan Christianson, a medic with the 2nd Infantry Division’s Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Brigade Special Troops Battalion, chats Monday with Michele Sharpley, Morale, Welfare and Recreation technician.

Pfc. Christiaan Christianson, a medic with the 2nd Infantry Division’s Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Brigade Special Troops Battalion, chats Monday with Michele Sharpley, Morale, Welfare and Recreation technician. (Lisa Burgess / S&S)

FORWARD OPERATING BASE LOYALTY, Baghdad, Iraq – Hunched over her computer, dressed in baggy overalls and a T-shirt, her blonde hair in a scrunchy, MWR technician Michele Sharpley looks like what she is, a civilian contractor.

Then you hear it. The voice.

“I’ll be with you in a minute, Hon.”

Sharpley’s husky voice is a dead ringer for actress Kathleen Turner’s in the classic film noir “Body Heat.” The technician with the Morale, Welfare and Recreation center could be reading you the riot act or the dining hall menu — you want to hear more.

Sharpley has a voice that was born for radio.

And sure enough, she was bona fide radio celebrity, with a fan base of thousands back home in Shreveport, La., where she was a disc jockey on country classic music station 106.7, KYLA.

Back in Shreveport, Sharpley is known by her stage name, “Kayla Koffee.” She says the name is homage to her mentor, the late DJ Bill Coffey, who helped her get her first stint on the air at an upstate New York radio station because he loved the way she sounded when she called in to request songs.

Here in Iraq, she is known by her real name. “In radio, it’s all about you,” Sharpley said. “And I didn’t want that any more. I wanted to come to Iraq because I wanted to give something to the soldiers.”

Sharpley said she left her radio show and came to Iraq with the contracting company KBR in April 2004 because she wanted to “support soldiers.”

She was followed by her soon-to-be husband, Bobby Ray Sharpley. They ended up working in construction, based at Camp Liberty in Baghdad.

But her job isolated her from the troops. So with her husband’s blessing, in the fall of 2006 she asked KBR for a transfer to FOB Loyalty, where she could run the recreation center — even though it meant seeing Bobby only once every few months.

Her request was approved and she moved to the FOB in October. Now that she’s here, Sharpley said, she’s found the job she had originally hoped for when she left radio.

She considers the U.S. troops who pass through her center “her kids,” and the soldiers look at Sharpley as a substitute mom.

They talk to her “about just about everything,” she said — their marriages, their relationships, their fears and gripes and plans for the future.

“It’s like being a bartender without the alcohol,” Sharpley said.

“I think she’s great,” said Pfc. Christiaan Christianson, a medic with the 2nd Infantry Division’s Headquarters Headquarters Company, 2nd Brigade Special Troops Battalion.

Christianson, 27, who is from Lafayette, La., plans to marry fellow soldier Spc. David Howell in April 2008, and says that Sharpley has taken a special interest in the upcoming nuptials.

With almost three years in Iraq under her belt, Sharpley is determined to stay until April 2008 and go for what she calls “her four-year enlistment.”

Sharpley has been to 16 memorial services at FOB Loyalty — every one that has been held since she got here.

It’s not part of her job, but “I will not miss one,” she said.

“Yes, it’s sad. Yes, I cry,” Sharpley said. “But I don’t want to be what I used to be, you know, ‘Here was Pvt. Joe Smith, from ABC City, Anywhere, USA; he was 20 years old’ — and 10 minutes later, I forget.

“These guys give their lives, and they deserve more than a fleeing thought in my brain.”


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