Special to the Hood Herald

A veterans organization at Piedmont Virginia Community College wanted to make sure the U.S. Army Operational Test Command's Forward Operational Assessment Team XVIII had all the basic comfort items they needed for the remainder of their deployment.

The team is in Afghanistan assessing the latest military-oriented equipment and technology.

The Student Veterans of America chapter at Piedmont sent two care packages to FOA Team XVIII last week filled with lip balm, Girl Scout cookies, tooth brushes, foot powder, candy, books, playing cards and clothing.

"Most of our members are prior military," said Gregory Del Rosario, of Piedmont's marketing department. Del Rosario's father, Michael, is an operations research systems analyst for OTC's Mission Command Test Directorate. "We remembered items that we would have liked to have received or did receive in care packages, so we held a care package drive at (Piedmont) and the Ruckersville, Va., Wal-Mart."

Thanks to the generosity of the Ruckersville and Charlottesville communities, Del Rosario said, volunteers were able to fill 55 care packages to send to additional units. "Normally, we research to find different groups that are deployed," he said, "and we address the packages to the chaplains assigned to the units.

"My dad told me about the OTC FOA team and provided me with their information," said Del Rosario, who is a Navy veteran.

FOA Team XVIII non-commissioned officer in charge Master Sgt. Jay High was thankful and humbled by the support.

"As a deployed soldier, there are few things that bring joy like a care package or a letter from home," he said. "It means everything that someone that doesn't even know you or anything about you other than the fact that you are deployed would take the time and effort to send a package to say thanks and let you know they truly care.

Col. Mark Valeri, FOA Team XVIII commander, said the boost to the team's morale and the smiles on soldiers' faces was a testament to the chapter's success.

"Deployments separate us from family, friends and all the comforts of home," he said. "These generous packages are much appreciated and most importantly support our team's mission.

Forward operational teams have deployed since 2003 to continue to assess equipment, systems and technology in theater to provide critical information on the suitability, survivability and effectiveness to senior Army leadership making acquisition decisions.

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