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Mission: Family: Nonprofit fills in supply gaps

Oct. 11, 2012 - 05:12PM   |   Last Updated: Oct. 11, 2012 - 05:12PM  |  
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If you think the nation's support for deployed troops is waning now that the surge in Afghanistan is over, consider Aaron Negherbon and his organization, http://troopsdirect.org">TroopsDirect.org.

The war in Afghanistan may be winding down, but Negherbon's mission is far from over.

His nonprofit group's mission isn't about shipping cookies. It's about medical supplies, stretchers, stethoscopes, ballistic eye protection, gun lubricant, water filtration systems, GPS units, boots, sports drinks and protein powder, to name a few — and all of it shipped at the specific request of unit leaders.

"We don't ship anything arbitrarily — we fulfill commanders' requests for items not available through the military, or not in supply at that time," Negherbon said. "This is not a knock on the military or DoD supply chain. Sometimes there are limitations. We augment."

His group is currently focused on forward-deployed units in more austere environments. "We support entire units in bulk," he said, ranging from full battalions of several hundred troops to a small group of special operators.

And he works quickly. For stateside units preparing to deploy, Negherbon can get shipments to them within 24 hours. And a recent request for supplies was in the hands of nine medics in Afghanistan within 10 days after he received the request.

"Commanders know they can call on TroopsDirect," he said.

Negherbon launched his effort in 2010, when he sent a 45-pound box of items to a friend, a Marine Corps captain, who was deployed to Afghanistan.

The captain sent him an email of thanks, and noted that he was sharing the package with fellow Marines. Negherbon began to send more stuff, and as his friend's fellow commanders found out, word spread.

Since 2010, TroopsDirect has shipped about 27,000 pounds of supplies and spent more than $500,000, including postage.

"This started in my garage. Now we have a 16,000-square-foot operation," said Negherbon, who gave up a "good job" in mortgage lending and property management to run TroopsDirect full time.

"I hung it all up for this," he said. "Service members tell us we're literally saving lives and limbs on a daily basis."

He recalled one Marine unit that requested foot powder — and, a short time later, requested more. Negherbon found out they were using it to mark improvised explosive devices. He arranged for donations of chalk powder and began sending it to the war zone.

Negherbon said he's in this for the long haul, and hopes he can count on donors to continue to support his effort.

"This is not just about support for the troops while we're in conflict," he said. "Our long-term mission is to support deployed troops all around the globe."

For troops and their loved ones back home who are also in it for the long haul, it's groups like this that make a difference — one person at a time.

kjowers@militarytimes.com?subject=Question from ArmyTimes.com reader">Karen Jowers is the wife of a military retiree.

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