That would be Operation BAEN BULK. A cause near and dear to my heart, because, oddly enough, I created it. And we just kicked off our 2013 Campaign. . .
First, a handy promotional video. made by my colleague, Tedd Roberts : neuroscientist, writer, blogger, videographer, and graduate of the same Wizarding Academy as your humble author. . .
It started in the fall of 2009. I was working at a large Defense contractor (who shall remain un-named, but it rhymes with "going". . . ), when I, along with ~15,000 OTHER co-workers, got a layoff notice. And was immediately pulled from my job and placed in the "Layoff Pool", a mostly-empty cube farm at the same facility, with a internet-attached computer, and a phone, and told to go find a job: I had 90 days.
At the same time, one of my occasional acquaintances on the Baen Bar had been assigned to run a detachment to train Afghan Army soldier somewhere deep in Talibanland, called "Camp Blackhorse". From the pictures we got, it was pretty Spartan living conditions: barracks and bunks made from CONEX containers, and the nearest PX to buy "American" stuff was a 6+ hour drive through sniper and mine-infested dirt roads.
He complained, most of all, of the lack of Coffee. They were on short rations already, and basically could get ONE cup of coffee a day, plus the freeze-dried hyper-caffinated coffee powder that comes in an MRE. (Rumor has it that recent-production MRE's have standard commercial stick-packs of freeze-dried coffee. . .). The Zombie-Killers (his unit) were NOT happy. . .
I was spending 8 hours a day in the cube farm, and other than Mondays (when MOST of the new jobs seemed to get posted), was sitting there, waiting for callbacks, 6 hours a day. So I did a lot of reading. Especially from the Baen Free Library. I was reading Michael Z. Williamson's "Freehold", when the protagonist was being complemented for applying a logistics approach to guerilla warfare, when it hit me: use LOGISTICS: instead of a few CARE packages, find out what they needed and wanted, and arrange large shipments of it. And Operation Baen Bulk was born.
I contacted the gang online, and we INUNDATED the Zombie Killers with stuff. Coffee ?? Ten pounds of Panama's finest, Cafe Duran. Immense quantities of hard candy and cookies. Three entire 4-6 foot pre-lit Christmas Trees. A coffeemaker, GoldFilters, and an entire case each of creamer and sugar. We ended up giving enough that the ENTIRE FIREBASE had a decent Christmas.
Oh, and a friend in the movie industry mentioned us to Sony Pictures, who had released "Zombieland" that summer. They gave us boxes and boxes of "Zombieland" swag that we sent on to the Zombie Killers as well. . .
And just before Christmas, just as my 90 days was running out. . . I found a job. At a nice raise in pay. Karma, I guess. . . .
Spring 2010 comes around, and their are more Barflies deployed. And one group has a different coffee-related problem: Cups. They had all the coffee, sugar, and creamer they wanted, but were issued ONE case of ~600 styrofoam coffee cups. And told that it was a 6-month supply. There was more than a problem with that: they were an Ammo Supply unit, and routinely got calls in the middle of the night for emergency ammo supply runs. Now, while an MRAP vehicle IS rather mine-resistant, it's also a bit of a bumpy ride. Especially at high-speed runs on dirt roads at 0-dark-thirty in the morning. Styrofoam Coffee cups, in such situations, have a half-life of less than 5 minutes. And the Military RUNS on Coffee. . . .
A solution was needed. Spill-proof and durable, that could take shocks and not crack or break. The solution: the Baen Bulk Cup. . . .
Metal. Grippable. Spillproof top. And imprintable. We threw our logo on the mug, and offered it with the following deal: Buy one for yourself, we send two to deployed units. In the 2010 and 2011 campaigns, we sold nearly 500 of these, and sent another 1000 to deployed units. . . as seen below. . .
Live action shot, somewhere in Iraq, as I recall. . . .
By 2012, we had pretty much saturated the market with travel mugs, and besides, my wife told me if we did mugs one more time, I'd be eating them (1000 mugs, and shipping preps thereof, kind of overflowed the living room and the dining room. . . .)
So we tried crowd-funding. And along the way, got the help of Glenn Reynolds, the Instapundit. And got Instalanched. We had intended to raise $2000. to get some supplies to the same Ammo unit we got the mugs for two years earlier, and ended up raising just under $3200.00 in under a day. We stopped accepting donations, upped the size of the supply buy, and got it shipped to Afghanistan, adding an Intel unit to the deliveries.
Well, it's 2013 and the troops are now filtering back. So we decided to help those GI's who were injured, and in prolonged recovery due to their injuries. And noticed that the books and magazines typically donated to military hospitals aren't the typical troop fare: tends to be heavy on bodice-ripper romances and housekeeping/cooking mags, not a lot of action-adventure books, hunting/fishing/gun/car mags, etc.
We aim to change that. We're now raising money to buy a large quantity of Amazon Kindle e-readers, and pre-loading them with the military and science fiction of Baen Books, as well as some other publishers. We've even been approached by some independent authors wishing to donate e-books to the effort.
So, that's the story of Operation BAEN BULK. We're running our 2013 fundraising campaign as we speak, and are hoping to be able to deliver 30-40 loaded-up Kindle readers to the Military Treatment Facilities at Fort Bragg and Camp Lejune. If we exceed our goals: we'll add more MTFs.
If you would, check us out at: