Regina Wages now has something in common with World War II hero Audie Murphy, former Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig and “The Late Show” host and USO tour veteran Stephen Colbert.
On Sept. 24, Wages received the Army Outstanding Civilian Service Award for her work as director of the USO center at Forward Operating Base Fenty in Afghanistan. Army Gen. John F. Campbell, Commander of U.S. Forces Afghanistan, presented her with the medal during a recent visit by military senior leadership.
“Units have deployed and returned home over these years and Regina has just continued to take care of the troops and the leadership to make their service there more bearable,” USO Regional Vice President Bruce Burda wrote in an email.
Described by Burda as “the dynamic and bridging force at FOB Fenty over the past five years,” Wages, a former South Carolina police officer, “has worked hard to keep the center open around the clock so this small base always has a place for the troops to relax and get away from their routine. With only one or two staff members at most, she has taken advantage of every opportunity to build key relationships and has lifted tens of thousands of troops’ spirits during her time in Afghanistan.”
With her sixth Christmas in Afghanistan approaching, Wages has pledged to stay in Eastern Afghanistan as long as the USO needs her there.
“Just because we’re not in combat mode doesn’t mean ISIS and the Taliban got that memo,” she said during a recent phone call as an alarm sounded in the background. “As you can hear, FOB life is very much the same.”
Wages said her most rewarding experience was an opportunity to bring holiday cheer to troops in the most austere fighting positions.
“We flew in helicopters up into the Kunar on the Pakistan border to more than 30 camps, some literally on the sides of snow-covered mountains with my sergeant major sitting next to me wearing a Santa Claus hat,” she said. “They were running off a generators, these kids. There were no latrines or showers up there. They take baths every few days off a solar bag and they do their business in a hole.
“Taking them an Xbox or a PlayStation, and games on Christmas — these kids would cry. And their reactions, by far, made this whole journey worthwhile.”