Operation Worner Desk: Care Packages to Afghanistan

Operation Worner Desk
Baby wipes, canned fruit, Skittles, beef jerky, tuna, pistachios: It’s not the usual Worner Desk collection of items. However, those on the collecting end – employees at the desk – were glad to gather them, and those on the receiving end – a platoon in Afghanistan – will be glad to get them.

Linking the two is Willma Fields ’01.  Lynnette DiRaddo, now manager of the Worner Information Desk, and Fields had known each other years before, when they worked together in Campus Activities. Fields, a religion major, was a student intern and then paraprofessional in Campus Activities. They reconnected when Willma’s husband, Sgt 1st Class James Fields, was reassigned to Fort Carson last summer before deploying to Afghanistan in February. He is scheduled to return in late November.

To occupy the time, Willma began filling in at Worner Desk last fall and was hired fulltime in May.  Soon she was chatting with DiRaddo about her children, ages 5 and 8, and her husband, who heads a platoon in rural Afghanistan, where they remove improvised explosive devices from civilian areas and assist with the transition from NATO-supported to Afghani-supported operations.

Fort Carson had always been in the background for DiRaddo, but never had any direct impact on her. That changed when Willma started working at the desk. “I started witnessing first-hand the effects of deployment and what it is like to be in the military,” DiRaddo said. “Willma would talk about sending her husband care packages, and I said, ‘I want to do that, too.’ I wanted to do something to help this family.” Being of Italian descent, DiRaddo did what comes naturally: “When you don’t know what else to do, feed them.”

With support from Vice President for Student Life and Dean of Students Mike Edmonds, DiRaddo and Career Connections Advisor Gretchen Wardell contacted various departments in Student Life, asking if people, either personally or through a departmental budget code, wished to donate to a care package for James Fields’ platoon.

The response was immediate, and Operation Worner Desk was underway. Departmental sponsorship came from the VP of Student Life, Worner Campus Center, Career Center, Campus Activities, Arts & Crafts, and Accessibility Resources (formerly Disability Services). Personal donations came from Wardell, Jason Owens, Tara Misra, Sara Rotunno, Bethany Grubbs, and Andrea Culp, with more $500 being collected.

With the platoon’s wish list in hand, DiRaddo and Wardell launched into action, shopping for  the items and filling two carts – and then going back for more when they realized they still had money to spend. In addition to snack foods, they also purchased practical items: small ice packs for the soldiers to tuck into their uniforms to help abate the 112-degree temperatures in Afghanistan, powdered flavorings for drinks, to make the perpetually lukewarm canteen water more palatable, and baby wipes, used to cool down and wipe off dust in an area with little running water.

Worner Desk student staff members Sydney Minchin ’15, Ginni Hill ’15, Sam Zuke ’15, Helen Kissel ’16, and Antonio Soto helped unload the goods from the car and transport them to DiRaddo’s office, where they were packed into boxes for shipment to Afghanistan.

“I’m amazed at how much people care,” Fields said, as she surveyed the mounds of supplies. “The war has been going on so long, and people still care. This is my CC family; this is my home base.”

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