Six days a week, Azat Mamraliev crawls out of bed to serve American troops in Afghanistan.
During the past six months, Mamraliev’s “rodeos” have served 7,500 Soldiers, Airmen and Marines in remote and forlorn places.
“Azat’s daily travels to serve our heroes in combat areas exemplify our motto ‘We go where you go,’” said Afghanistan Exchange General Manager Robin Chetri. “Azat always looks forward to his next mission, even bringing back a personal list of items our Warfighters request so he can take care of them on his next trip.
“Words can’t describe his level of enthusiasm. He constantly amazes me, hitting the road amid the incoming rocket attacks.”
Rodeos with choppers, not horses
A native of Kyrgyzstan in Central Asia who is based out of Afghanistan’s Bagram AB, Mamralievhas worked with the Exchange for five years, all in Afghanistan, and has conducted rodeos full time for more than a year.
Rodeos are moved by helicopters or planes to wherever they are needed. Once Mamraliev arrives, he transforms the temporary locations, usually tents or shipping containers, into a store filled with wooden shelves he made himself for the necessities, such as personal hygiene products, snacks and drinks.
‘They count on us’
The rodeos are usually at forward operating bases, where the ground war often takes place. Most of the FOBs are an hour’s helicopter ride from the main installations at Bagram AB or Kandahar Airfield.
“Although our tent or shipping container is a small Exchange store, we are offering our heroes a taste of home,” Mamraliev said. “If we don’t show up, these brave Soldiers will go without. They count on us.
“I often hear from the Soldiers, Airmen, Marines and Sailors, ‘You guys really do go where we go’ and ‘Thank God you’re here.’”
Requests from troops for rodeos come to Chetri, who sets the wheels in motion to serve the Soldiers, Airmen or Marines.
“It’s a flawless synchronization between military units, retail managers, logistics associates, finance and accounting associates, movement control team, and the rodeo team,” Chetri said. “The teamwork that is required to make it a reality to provide a taste of home for the troops is simply admirable.”
HISTORY FUN FACTS
Since World War II, the Exchange has taken the goods to the troops via trucks, boats, helicopters, even the backs of mules. Check out these “rodeos” from the Exchange history archives on Flickr: