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Morale-boosting t-shirts for Iraq, Kuwait Battalion
Jan '12
Captain Jeff Hastings found a highly effective antidote for the sagging spirits of soldiers serving with the 718th Transportation Battalion in Iraq and Kuwait this past year. He presented each member of the unit with a custom printed T-shirt donated by UniFirst, an industry leader in the supply and servicing of uniforms, workwear, and protective clothing. The T-shirts feature the Battalion's crest on the front and its "Iron Chariots" nickname and military tour of duty dates on the back.

"As soon as we handed out the T-shirts, they created a party- and team-like atmosphere that just didn't end," Captain Hastings said. "They helped to instill a sense of camaraderie and the soldiers continually wore them during their off-duty time."

While serving in Iraq and Kuwait during "Operation New Dawn," the Battalion travelled over 56 million miles and met with 90 enemy encounters, many coming in the form of IEDs or Improvised Explosive Devices. "Constantly watching out for IEDs, enduring 100 degree-plus heat each and every day, and being away from home during holidays wears on everyone," Captain Hastings said.

As the Battalion chaplain, Captain Hastings says he continually seeks ways to improve morale. He said his idea for the personalized T-shirts was the result of working at the Owensboro Medical Health System prior to his deployment. He knew that hospital staff uniforms were supplied by UniFirst, and that they helped to create a strong sense of camaraderie among employees there. He thought that personalized T-shirts would do the same for his troops so he contacted Beth Johnson, a friend who is also a customer service manager at UniFirst in Owensboro.

"After consulting with our General Manager at UniFirst, we decided to help Captain Hastings," Johnson said. "After all, it's patriotic and some soldiers in the battalion are also local residents, and we believe we have an obligation to be a strong supporter of the military and the Greater Owensboro community."

As a "thank you" for the T-shirts, the 718th Transportation Battalion presented UniFirst with a handcrafted recognition plaque and a Battalion coin. The plaque was signed by the unit's top officers and features the official seal of the U.S. Department of Army. The enameled battalion coin, which is traditionally presented by unit commanders for "acts of excellence," boasts the unit's crest and motto, "Servitium Omnia Vincit" (Service Conquers All).

Captain Hastings said every soldier from the battalion ultimately returned home safely and, like him, each continues to wear their T-shirts as a reminder of their time together in the Middle East.


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