- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 29, 2003

American Red Cross workers Michelle Bailey and Deanna Young were strangers when they traveled to Kuwait in December hoping to provide a “little bit of home to soldiers stationed there.”
   By the time they returned home on Saturday the two had become such friends that they wondered how they were going to live without each other. This is the first American Red Cross team to return from the Persian Gulf since being deployed Dec. 14 for Operation Iraqi Freedom.
   “We’re trying to figure out what we’re going to do for the next month,” Mrs. Young said. “We would both go back in a heartbeat.” They said that working with the soldiers in the field is the “part of the job that we like the best.”
   Miss Bailey, 34, a self-described “Army brat,” and Mrs. Young, 36, from Indiana, began their Kuwait stint at a previously established station at Camp Doha, where they stayed for 21/2 months, then moved to Camp Arifjan, where they set up their own camp.
   “When we got to hang up the sign of an office we had started, that was awesome,” Mrs. Young said, pumping a fist in the air. “It was like booyah. It’s a very cool thing.”
   The women will be on leave for 30 days before returning to work in Red Cross offices in Germany, one in Hohenfels and the other in Baumholder, about an hour away from each other.
   Once there they plan to visit each other to keep their friendship flourishing. Both said they can’t imagine a month elapsing without seeing each other.
   “We really kept an eye on each other,” she said, noting their team’s name, “Team Cosmo, short for cosmopolitan.”
   “One most memorable moment was when the sergeant told us there would be no more drills. ‘The next alarm is real,’” Mrs. Young said. “Then you tried to go to sleep, but you think you hear another alarm, but it’s a truck.”
   Having teammates there made fearful nights more bearable, Miss. Bailey said.
   Their third team member, Mona Vines, who shared their room, is among 33 American Red Cross workers remaining in the Gulf region. As Miss Bailey and Mrs. Young left, some teams were setting up stations in Iraq.
   At the stations, workers provide soldiers with donated supplies such as food, games and books. Sometimes a favorite brand of potato chips or candy would leave a soldier smiling all day, Mrs. Young said.
   The potato chips “are crushed to crumbs and they don’t care,” she said. “It’s the little sort of, ‘Oh my God, you have my shampoo brand in.’”
   Red Cross workers also deliver messages about births, deaths and emergencies from family members to troops. However, problems with communication lines and electricity were frequent, the women said.
   “Telephone, e-mail, electricity connections going down,” Mrs. Young said. “It was a hit at every turn. Every day either one or all of them went down.”
   The Red Cross delivered messages for 20,768 families in March, up from about 14,500 families per month before Operation Iraqi Freedom.
   Both Miss Bailey and Mrs. Young have a background in counseling, which they said helped them comfort soldiers, especially those facing bad news.
   They became friends with many of them, making it difficult to say goodbye when troops moved on, usually after two or three weeks.
   “First they come in for coffee one day,” Mrs. Young said. “Then you’re [on] first-name basis … then you’re seeing pictures of their children … then the next day it’s, ‘Hey we’re leaving.’ They’re going north to Iraq, and you don’t know.”

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