Steve Ayala is halfway around the world in Afghanistan. But thanks to his Long View friends and colleagues, he’s still getting a taste of Texas.

Steve, a captain with the Texas Army National Guard, joined our Managed IT Services team in Houston in August 2008. Last June, he received word that he was being seconded by the U.S. Army for active duty in Afghanistan, where he would be mentoring and advising members of the Afghan national police force.

Steve will return home in July after eight solid months in Afghanistan, where support for the Taliban still exists in some pockets of the country. It’s dangerous work, with primitive living conditions, bone-chilling mountainous terrain, and fairly unappetizing grub.

The kind-hearted folks at our Texas offices, though, were determined that Steve and his colleagues with Task Force Arrowhead should enjoy at least a few of the comforts of home — and they’ve sent care packages that are still the stuff of legend in the Kandahar area!

As Director of People Services here at Long View, I am so proud of the tremendous social support and the strong sense of community that sets us apart. This is just one example where the groundswell of support from our Long View team has made an incredible difference.

Lisa Begnaud, our Corporate Services Coordinator in Texas, has been the driving force behind this project. Before he left for training exercises, his Long View friends took Steve and his wife Ana out to lunch and vowed they would do whatever they could to support him while he was in Afghanistan. Everything that’s followed, says Lisa, “has been an ongoing effort by Steve’s colleagues to make sure he feels our love.”

I’m sure he has! Just in time for Christmas, our generous Texas crew sent over a package worth about $1,600 for all 12 members of Task Force Arrowhead. They sent everything from snacks to sunscreen, toothpaste and toothbrushes to loofah mitts and body wash, hand warmers and bug repellent to deodorant and candy canes. And just before Easter, another package found its way to Afghanistan — including socks, canned chicken and tuna, seasonings, crackers, candy, and hot sauces.

Since he arrived in early November, Steve has managed to keep in fairly regular contact with our Texas offices via e-mail.

“Wow! This is an incredible amount of support and generosity,” Steve wrote in one recent e-mail to the team. “The liquid soaps were so needed, as well as the hand and foot lotions. The sun block, lip balm, and razors also were very popular. These packages were really incredible! We are set for quite some time!

“We cannot properly express our thanks,” continued Steve. “Your efforts and kindness really have demonstrated to us we are appreciated, and not forgotten.  I am proud to be a part of a great company in Long View.”

Lisa and the gang in Texas also stay in regular contact with Ana, and have taken up collections for restaurant gift cards so she and their two teenage girls can get out a little more often.

“We are just so blessed to have the support of Steve’s close friends and colleagues at Long View,” says Ana. “From the time they found out Steve was leaving, they’ve been so generous and understanding. We’re so grateful, because they’ve shown nothing but support.”

(Accompanying photo: Employees from Long View’s generous Texas offices gather with the Christmas care packages they sent to Steve Ayala and his colleagues with Task Force Arrowhead)