My Last Tour: Duct Tape and Beanie Babies

Tampa airman Rex Temple is collecting more that just school supplies for Afghan children. He's also distributing toys, such as these Beanie Babies.
TAMPA (2010-1-5) -

Everything old is new again -- at least that’s what Tampa airman Rex Temple found when he returned to Afghanistan after two weeks leave in Europe.

Most of his old team was gone, rotated back to the U.S. having finished their deployments.

Getting to know his new team is just one adjustment the senior master sergeant is making.

He’d been relying on the “fix-all” duct tape to hold his personal laptop computer together. But shortly after he returned from leave, a few bright colors flashed on the screen, and his computer died. And no amount of duct tape could revive it.

“Of course, I’m not a computer expert and I think I really screwed it up. Even the repair software and now I’m not even able to start it up,” he said.

Despite the technical problems, Temple missed only one day writing for his blog.

“That’s my line of communication with my family and wife, and now I have about 700 readers a day that are tapping into and reading my blog. So I’m going to continue it. Right now I have a workaround,” he said.

He’s hopeful he can buy a new computer. But that won’t be the only new thing the Tampa airman is dealing with. Two-thirds of his team left for home while he was away, and his squad has merged with another one.

“There’s a lot of new faces, new personalities,” he said.

The merger means additional responsibilities for Temple. He’s now mentoring a third officer with the Afghan National Army.

Another new development that Temple has high hopes for is called Commanders Emergency Response Program (CERP). Local troops can spend CERP money on village needs, up to $50,000.

“It’s definitely a tool to win the hearts and minds if you use the tool appropriately and go out and talk to the villagers. For a lot of villages it’s wells. They want access to water,” he said.

Another surprise that greeted Temple on his return was more than 60 boxes of school supplies sitting in his office.

People from several states have responded to his school supply drive. He’s anxious for school to return to session in February so he can distribute the donations – and it’s not just pencils and notepads.

“I have teamed up with Beanie Babies for Baghdad and not only do they send Beanie Babies, they send clothing, soccer balls…”

And there was one more change -- the camp dog that slept on a chair outside Temple’s B-hut has disappeared. Temple was assured the puppies found homes off base.

Although he misses the camp dog, followers of Temple’s blog know – it won’t be too long before another dog will find its way to Temple’s door.

WUSF’s Bobbie O’Brien checks in with Temple every week from the frontlines in Afghanistan.

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