Airmen showing they 'care'

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Nicole Bickford
  • 363rd Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
Learning to live in a deployed environment is a fact of life more and more military members are having to deal with as the United States pursues its global war on terrorism.

There is no question that some deployed locations have more to offer than others, and members of the 363rd Air Expeditionary Wing, Prince Sultan Air Base, Saudi Arabia, know they have better-than-average living conditions. After watching a presentation on the conditions at Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, one wing member decided to take charge and make a difference, helping fellow deployed troops who were in need of everything from soap to black socks.

To get things started, Master Sgt. Wes Reed, 363rd Expeditionary Maintenance Group program manager from Misawa Air Base, Japan, went to his first sergeant to discuss options for sending items from here to Bagram.

"We contacted the Red Cross at Bagram to find out what we could do to help them out," said Master Sgt. James Strenn, 363rd EMXG first sergeant, also from Misawa. "That's when we found out they were in short supply of some of the basic items, such as toiletries, snacks and black socks."

As a result, the Reed and Strenn made a presentation to all base first sergeants the following day. The first sergeants became the collection points of contact for each unit and helped spread the word.

"That all took place on a Friday and by Monday morning I was receiving phone calls that squadrons had packages ready to pick up and ship to Bagram," said Strenn.

Three pallets with 14 boxes of goods have been sent to Afghanistan to date, totaling more than 1,600 pounds of much-needed items.

"(With) every box we packed and got ready to ship, we would think about the people living in those conditions," said Reed. "The tents, the dust, the long lines at the chow hall, the long lines at the (base exchange) -- and just hoped that the items we were sending would make a difference. We just hoped that someone would take the time to do what we were doing if we were in that situation here."

Every box sent was accompanied by a letter that said, "This CARE package was proudly donated from the men and women of the 363rd AEW ... Please ensure the contents are made available to ALL SERVICEMEMBERS assigned to Bagram AB."

An integral part of getting the supplies from one deployed location to another was the transportation management office outbound cargo section.

"TMO called to tell me that if there was anything they could do to help, just to let them know," said Strenn. "They handled everything from filling out paperwork to packing the crates. All we had to do was deliver the packages, and they took it from there."

According to a Red Cross representative here, when the Red Cross in Bagram received the first shipment, "they were in awe."

"What they (Reed and Strenn) have done, and are continuing to do, typifies the true spirit and culture of what we are about -- service before self," said Col. Eugene Collins, 363rd EMXG commander. "They proved what I already knew -- we are more than technicians, organizational charts and processes. We genuinely feel for one another, and when one hurts, we all hurt."