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CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- A small, humble truck of commodities greeted many of the Marines and sailors with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit as they disembarked from their ships here just before Christmas.
Their work with the Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group separated them from family, friends and many of the basic comforts of modern American life for nearly nine months, but a small taste of home was already waiting for some of the troops as they hit the beach.
“We’re doing a Warfighter Express Services Team that we do in combat zones,” said Staff Sgt. Donald W. Tubbs, a morale, welfare, recreation specialist with Combat Logistics Regiment 27, 2nd Marine Logistics Group. “A lot of the guys have an actual Navy store on ship they utilize, but they get all the products before they go [out]. By the end of the deployment, it is pretty scarce.”
On deployments, WES Teams provide servicemembers with postal and communication services, which are not normally available in the field. The teams also provide Marines and sailors with access to a small Post Exchange, where they can purchase goods such as candy and beverages.
“It is something they probably haven’t seen in six months,” said Tubbs, who deployed several times as a WES Team member and took charge of the teams on his last deployment to Afghanistan. “You show up and it is nothing but smiles because it is nothing they expected. Even though it is only a few things, they are happy to see you out there.”
The teams’ mobility allows them to service troops in forward deployed environments. Servicemembers can go months without seeing the inside of a store or post office, but with the help of the WES Teams, they don’t have to.
Team personnel help distribute mail and process the sale of common goods with the WES Team Point of Sales System. The system tracks product sales and inventory.
“It is a lot easier to do versus using a calculator, which is what we had to do in the past,” noted Tubbs. “It’s actually easier to do in country believe it or not.”
The small shops are cash only, but they work with the disbursing office in the field to allow Marines and sailors to make cash withdrawals. Tubbs was forced to rely on a mobile ATM to conduct transactions during the MEU’s off-loading operation on base.
“It seems every deployment you go out on, each group of Marines adds something else to make it better,” said Tubbs, as he completed his transactions with a team of landing support specialists, who spent more than three days on the beach working with the 24th MEU.