BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan — Soldiers from the 703rd Brigade Support Battalion, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, hosted the re-opening of the Task Force Vanguard Wounded Warrior Center on May 4 at Bagram Air Field.
The center allows soldiers under medical care at Bagram to have a safe place to relax, place a phone call home, watch a movie, play video games or share their experiences with a battle buddy.
Second Lt. Ashleigh Sheets, the TF Maintain medical liaison officer, works at the Craig Joint Theater Hospital at Bagram Air Field, where she receives patients, monitors their status and communicates their condition and progress to their respective units. The West Point graduate and native of Fort Mill, S.C., also has the responsibility to provide the soldiers with a place to stay while they are still under the care of a physician.
“It’s a chance to be with wounded soldiers and be able to help them talk to their families,” she said.
When Sheets first saw the wounded-warrior barracks, she immediately knew changes needed to be made to enhance the resources for the soldiers. She took ownership of the barracks, leaving the TF Vanguard footprint at Bagram.
Sheets decided to renovate the area to make it more welcoming for any soldier who would need to use the facility.
“I was going to try to make it look like a hospital and put curtains in between the bunks, and that was all I thought I was going to be able to do,” she said.
That was not the case. With the help of soldiers on ground and other supporters, Sheets’ project took off.
Her mother, Angela Sheets, also was a huge supporter throughout the project.
Her mother helped organize donations from the community of Fort Mill, as well as organizations such as Boots and Boxes based in West Virginia, Operation Shoebox, Cell Phones for Soldiers and the Bagram Air Field Red Cross. The Sheets were able to call upon numerous people and organizations to assist in the project.
“My mom has been my battle buddy throughout the whole thing,” 2nd Lt. Sheets said.
Spc. Samantha Salas, from Covina, Calif., a signal support systems specialist with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 703rd BSB, was one of the soldiers who contributed to the project and was grateful to be a part of it. Salas said knowing the soldiers would use the facility to recover meant a lot to her.
A little more than a month after starting the renovations, the center was ready to be revealed. A ribbon cutting was held to commemorate the opening. The TF Vanguard command team, Col. Kimo Gallahue and Command Sgt. Maj. Alan Hummel, attended and presented awards to Sheets and other soldiers and civilians who helped make the project a success.
The TF Maintain commander, Lt. Col. Nathan Swartz, spoke during the ceremony and praised Sheets fort her accomplishments and highlighted what the facility would provide for wounded warriors.
“This wounded-warrior B-Hut facilitates their recovery and their return to their battle buddies while allowing them to be surrounded by their extended Army family, members of Task Force Vanguard,” he said.
At the conclusion of the ceremony, Gallahue, Sheets and Spc. Kevin Brown, of Burbank, Calif., a combat engineer with 4-3 Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 4th IBCT, a former patient of Sheets, cut the ribbon signifying the re-opening of the TF Vanguard Wounded Warrior Center. Those in attendance then were invited to tour the renovated facility and see the changes made to better it for future patients. Brown said it was an honor to be a part of the ceremony and everything looked amazing.
Sheets’ efforts, along with those who contributed, will have a positive impact on soldiers who may need to use the facility. She said she never would have been able to do it without support from here and back home.
“It’s just a big thanks — there are so many people to thank,” she said.