CRESTVIEW — A local service member’s overseas airbase spent the holidays much like residents in town, with a Christmas feast, toys and entertainment.
For Manas Air Base in Kyrgyzstan, Central Asia, the 376th Air Expeditionary Wing’s uniformed men and women broke bread with comrades, collected toys for Kyrgyzstan children in orphanages and schools, and listened to Nashville-based rock band Hip Kitty during a two-day performance for deployed troops, among other activities.
Chief Master Sgt. Leonard Thibodeaux, of Crestview, welcomed 2013 at the Manas Transit Center in the Kyrgyz Republic of Central Asia. Base members transport military personnel and supplies to and from Afghanistan.
The transit center, which functions like a small town, includes a mayor who ensures “all service members transiting through are safe and comfortable,” the group’s website, manas.afcent.af.mil, states.
Leonard, as deputy mayor, regularly monitors safety conditions and helps ensure comrades’ quality of life.
"The conditions have been a concern for us," he said. "We have had to deal with frozen water pipes and down power lines. We have had several nights when the temperature was below freezing. These conditions can make transporting personnel difficult.”
He also promotes morale.
"There are several here that are spending time away from families for the first time," said Leonard, who helps prevent comrades’ homesickness or helps them cope with it.
"We are a family and we always take care of each other," he said.