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Dirty linen exchanged

Staff Sgt. Lakeisha El Halloui, 90th Force Support Squadron, counts linen before the contractor arrives Oct. 17. Sergeant El Halloui’s job entails checking and logging any damage done to the linen before it’s shipped off to be cleaned (Photo by Airman 1st Class Daryl Knee).

Staff Sgt. Lakeisha El Halloui, 90th Force Support Squadron, counts linen before the contractor arrives Oct. 17. Sergeant El Halloui’s job entails checking and logging any damage done to the linen before it’s shipped off to be cleaned (Photo by Airman 1st Class Daryl Knee).

F. E. Warren AFB, Wyo. -- The lights of the seemingly abandoned warehouse flicker, casting ominous shadows on the path leading to the door. The shriek of the rusty hinges, an unmistakable call sign of unuse, beckons the staff sergeant to enter. Inside, the image, seen only between the flashes of failing light, is so frightening and horrible that the sergeant screams.

A year's supply of soiled linen fills the warehouse from the floor to the ceiling. The sergeant closes her eyes -- and opens them into what is now an efficient linen exchange building. The daydream has passed. The nightmare, over.

Staff Sgt. Lakeisha El Halloui, 90th Force Support Squadron, single-handedly operates the Warren linen exchange, located at Bldg. 837, by providing clean and serviceable linen to organizations on base: the 90th Operations Group, the 90th FSS, child development center, Crow Creek lodging, fire department, auto skills center and others.

"It's rewarding here because I ensure the guest lodging and missile field residents are properly bedded down," Sergeant El Halloui said.

Linen taken to the exchange building is first sorted and counted by Sergeant El Halloui. She bags all the linen to ready it for transportation. A contractor arrives daily to take the used linen for cleaning and drops off the fresh linen. It's Sergeant El Halloui's job to ensure the quality and quantity of the cloth stays the same.

"We document all damage to the linen before we ship it off to be cleaned," Sergeant El Halloui said. "If the contractor comes back with burn marks or tears, we have the proof whether it's us or them doing the damage."

Any damaged articles are paid for by the contracting company.

The types of linen accepted by the exchange are limited to government-issued items only, such as issued cold-weather gear. Normally, the items brought in are cleaned within two days at no cost.

"You can turn in your parkas, Gore-Tex or any of your other governmental gear," Sergeant El Halloui said. "But if I notice any damage on it, I'm still recording it. The contracting company will not pay for a new jacket because of damage you've caused."

There are some safety concerns when searching for discrepancies of the turned-in linen. Sergeant El Halloui is required to wear gloves at all times and attend a class about the hazards of blood-borne pathogens and bacteria.

"I thought I had come into contact with anthrax the other day when I picked up a towel and white powder fluttered through the air," Sergeant El Halloui said with a chuckle.

Even though the normally two-person shop is down to just one, Sergeant El Halloui shows an undeterred enthusiasm.

"The job has to get done," she said. "They needed a strong NCO to get the program back on track, and here I am."

The amount of lined cleaned during the course of one year is staggering, Sergeant El Halloui said. Without linen exchange doing its job properly, the dirty linen could fill, let's say, a whole warehouse, she added with a shudder.

To drop off government-issued items for cleaning, call Sergeant El Halloui in advance at 773-2095 between 7:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.