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Flint recruiters assist community in crisis

Staff Sgt. David Whitney (right) hands a box of bottled water to Staff Sgt. Parker Smith at Word Temple Church in Flint, Michigan, Feb. 10. Whitney and Parker are 339th Recruiting Squadron recruiters based in Flint. Due to massive amounts of lead found in Flint water, millions of bottles of water have been donated to the city and surrounding area since the crisis began. Residents are unable to drink or bathe in the water. The two recruiters have been assisting in the recovery every Wednesday by distributing water and filtration kits, and helping test for lead. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Karl Fletcher)

Staff Sgt. David Whitney, right, hands a box of bottled water to Staff Sgt. Parker Smith at Word Temple Church in Flint, Mich., Feb. 10, 2016. Whitney and Parker are recruiters assigned to the 339th Recruiting Squadron based in Flint. Due to massive amounts of lead found in Flint water, millions of bottles of water have been donated to the city and surrounding area since the crisis began. The two recruiters have been assisting in the recovery efforts. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Karl Fletcher)

FLINT, Mich. (AFNS) -- Recruiters are known as the face of the Air Force in communities all across the U.S., and in Flint, Michigan, local recruiters Staff Sgts. Parker Smith and David Whitney are also known as the faces of compassion and humanitarian service.

The city of Flint has been in the news since April 2014 when its drinking water became contaminated with lead. While some repairs were made to the water distribution system, the damage was done, and President Barack Obama declared a federal state of emergency in Flint, Jan. 16. Shortly thereafter, Smith and Whitney, assigned to the 339th Recruiting Squadron E-Flight, began volunteering to help with the crisis.

"I felt bad for the people of Flint," said Whitney, who lives outside the affected area. "I was also pretty upset at the fact there were a lot of people griping and complaining about the issue but they didn't want to pitch in and help out."

The two recruiters have been volunteering every Wednesday and don't plan on stopping until the crisis is solved. They've helped assemble water testing kits, load bottled water into vehicles and unload pallets from trailers. Whitney said they normally hand out about 25,000 bottles of water during their volunteer shifts. Members of their delayed entry program also help out.

"I have asked them all to help out in some way whether it's handing out water or just donating water, and they have all participated," Whitney said.

Lt. Col. Justin Tyree, the 339th RCS commander, said that Whitney and Smith have been busy working to meet increased enlisted accession goals.

"Recruiting is a tough business,” Tyree said. “Yet they took the time and put in the extra effort to make everyday life more bearable for people they don't even know. That says a ton about their character. I'm very proud to serve alongside them.”

Smith, a native of Mobile, Alabama, has been a recruiter for less than a year. He was formerly an F-16 Fighting Falcon crew chief.

"The thing that's meant the most to me during all this is seeing the gratefulness of the people we hand water to," he said.

Whitney, originally from Sumter, South Carolina, has been in Flint for four years. Before becoming a recruiter he was an electric power production craftsman. He also has an optimistic outlook on the situation.

"The best thing for me is that I'm making a difference and helping people get a basic necessity that they might not get otherwise," he said.

Whitney and Smith's flight chief, Master Sgt. Gregory Lamb, said the Flint recruiters are not only making a huge impact within the community, they are also showing the Air Force cares.

"When they are out sacrificing their personal time for other individuals, it shows that the Air Force thinks above itself by caring for the welfare of those families who need help," Lamb said. "It's awesome to see these two individuals carrying on the great tradition of the Air Force and its humanitarian efforts."