Local solider focuses on morale and closure

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 13, 2013

By Staff Sgt. Robert Barnett
376th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

MANAS, Kyrgyzstan – When new permanent party personnel and transient deployed members touch down at Transit Center at Manas, Kyrgyzstan, one of the first things they do is connect to the MoraleNet and contact their loved ones.
Deputy Commander 1st Lt. Steven Foster of the 376th Expeditionary Communications Squadron helps make that happen.
“My job is basically project management,” said Foster, who is a LaPlace native. “Normally, that means assisting with projects that are being built.”
Foster’s responsibilities include tracking the squadron’s missions outside the Transit Center, being a liaison with combat communications, tracking the deposition of technical equipment and more. He also monitors the MoraleNet for the installation, and when it goes down, his squadron is the first to know so they can fix it as soon as possible.
“When the troops get out of Afghanistan, they come here,” he said. “They start reintegrating into normal society, and MoraleNet is a big part of it.”
MoraleNet, which includes Wi-Fi, enables service members to talk and video chat with their friends and loved ones back home.
“That’s a big plus,” Foster said. “I love working on the MoraleNet because of how many people it affects. They like being on their phones, video chatting with their spouses and getting on the Internet. There’s no firewall they need to worry about. They can just relax and enjoy. It’s a little piece of home that we can give them.”
As the Transit Center prepares to close in the months ahead, Foster’s role is changing. When he deployed to the Transit Center from Joint Base Elemendorf-Richardson, Alaska, Foster knew there was a possibility that he›d have to extend his deployment time to see the closure through.
“Now my focus is on the closure,” he said. “I’m in charge of making sure the equipment goes to the right places after we close. I will probably stay here until we close. I knew about this before I showed up and expected it. I can’t justify allowing someone to get sent here for just two months. I’m happy to stay here a little longer and make sure it gets done.”
The 376 ECS deputy commander also sees some benefits to being in Kyrgyzstan.
“I love it out here. It’s not Alaska, but it’s good,” he said. “I love going out into the country and seeing the differences between our culture and theirs. It’s a beautiful country.”