SWIETOSZOW, Poland –
The small base camp on Swietoszow, Poland, may only be home to a couple hundred Soldiers, but this didn’t stop Sgt. Levi Proctor and 1st Lt. Matthew Harper from making it as comfortable as possible.
The two Soldiers run the mayor cell at Sweitoszow, meaning they are responsible for managing and improving daily life-support operations for the U.S. Soldiers stationed there. This ranges from providing things like laundry and shower services to working to improve the quality of chow served in the dining facility.
“Some small upgrades in the day-to-day quality of life make a huge difference in the morale of the Soldiers here, especially with everything going on in the world now,” Proctor, an ammunition supply noncommissioned officer from Missoula, Montana and the deputy mayor at Swietoszow, said.
One of the biggest improvements Proctor and Harper said they were able to make during their time here was setting up a bigger and better Morale Welfare and Recreation area for the Soldiers on Swietoszow. This area serves as a “lounge” for the Soldiers there – a place to go and blow off steam.
An MWR had previously existed in two small rooms on a different location on the base camp. The rooms had the basics, but when Proctor and Harper walked around the basement of one of the buildings on the base camp, they knew they had a new home for the MWR center.
“Nobody ever came down there,” Proctor said. “The lights didn’t work and it was pretty much abandoned.”
“It was a ton of storage, bubble wrap” Harper said. “This was the area where whenever a unit would leave, they’d just leave their extra stuff here.”
“From units ago, not the previous unit, like several units ago,” Proctor added.
Proctor and Harper spent a couple days clearing out and consolidating the clutter in the two rooms. They then moved the items from the upstairs into the newly-opened area.
Proctor and Harper got a huge boost in the process when they got a call from the Maryland National Guard's 729th Composite Supply Company, which had a handful of Soldiers on the base. One of the Soldiers, Spc. Elise Kuczera, a petroleum supply specialist from Glenwood, Maryland with the 729th out of Ellicott City, Maryland, wanted to volunteer to improve the MWR.
Proctor and Harper didn’t know it yet, but they had found the perfect person to build a top-notch MWR. Kuczera, a civilian firefighter, had served as a resident assistant while attending Frostburg State University, so she was constantly organizing and setting up events and places to host them. Furthermore, she had studied parks and recreation, and even volunteered for an MWR internships before she ended up completing one with the Colorado Department of Parks and Recreation.
“This (managing an MWR) is something that I’ve always wanted to do,” Kuczera said.
“She took it to the next level and beyond,” Proctor said.
Kuczera spent each night for several weeks cleaning, arranging and organizing the new area.
“I just tried to organize things into functional areas,” Kuczera said. “I made it in a way so that it was inviting – people would want to come down here and stay more than five minutes to grab a snack.”
Kuczera was creative in her approach. She was able to get several trays out of Soldiers’ footlockers to use to hold snacks, so that they were easily seen and accessible by MWR patrons.
As Kuczera organized and set things up, Proctor worked to get her new items to make the MWR better. He said he wrote to the USO and was able to gather numerous food and snack boxes for Kuczera to stock the MWR with, as well as tables, bean bags and various other items. He also had acquired numerous care packages from the For the Troops program that had been donated from the United States to the previous unit on the base camp, the 4th Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment.
Proctor cleared out one of the rooms in the basement and organized the books into a library/reading room across from the main MWR center, complete with a space where Soldiers with children could read books to their children over the internet.
Proctor now has a small, organized closet of supplies which will ensure that the MWR will continue for the near future.
“We just leave things in corners for her at night, and she makes it work!” Proctor joked. “Her organizational skills shame most people’s.”
He said that largely due to Kuczera’s efforts, the MWR has not had any lost equipment, is open for extended hours, and is always clean and organized, making it comfortable for the Soldiers to use.
The next big step was adding some new furniture – couches and love seats. Since Proctor and Harper’s unit, the 652nd RSG, runs the base operations for 11 base camps throughout Poland, when Harper heard one of the other base camps had some extra furniture, he quickly jumped on it.
Now when a Soldier goes down the stairs to the MWR, the Soldier walks in the door and signs in on a large table with all sorts of free personal care supplies – everything from toothbrushes and shampoos to rifle slings. To the left of the door is a large couch with a wide-screen TV and a video game center. Along the wall opposite the entrance is a line of several computers on USO tables, which Proctor and Harper were able to get connected to Wi-Fi for Soldier use. Along this wall there is also a microwave, coffee and other supplies and trays of a wide variety of snacks and comfort foods. The room has a sitting area with couches and love seats behind the computer lab area. The sitting area opens up into a movie theater with a large library of DVDs.
Proctor and Harper have made many improvements to the base camp at Swietoszow during their time as a mayor cell team. They oversaw renovations to the base camp’s ammunition supply point, worked to expand the menu at the dining facility, increased the amount of laundry allowed per week per Soldier, and worked with Polish and medical personnel to put together a prompt COVID-19 response plan.
However, the MWR stands out as a favorite accomplishment.
“It’s something nice for the Soldiers,” Proctor said.