Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates --
The chaplains’ office from the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing is providing humanitarian aid to families and children in need within the local community by gathering food and hygienic supplies donated from Airmen and civilians stationed at Al Dhafra Air Base.
Capt. Robbie Deka, Staff Sgt. Jennifer Robledo and the entire chaplain team, gather food and supplies to deliver weekly to a church in the local area. The church then disseminates the supplies to the families in need. While the church handles the logistics of directly delivering the donated supplies, they are also providing schooling and religious services for the children under their care. After delivering the supplies at the church, Deka also provides a special catholic mass for crowds up to 1,000 people at a time.
This is one example of how the chaplain’s office is executing its mission while living by one of the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing’s motto, ‘take care of our friends’ and the Air Force’s core value, ‘service before self.’
“This is all coming from the help of our Airmen. This mission is important to us and the wing. We are doing our best to follow the wing’s motto of ‘take care of our friends.’ We don’t want to be a facade with just our words, so we take action,” Robledo said.
Robledo, who travels with Deka to hand out aid and help coordinate deliveries, is deployed as a chaplain’s assistant for the first time. Robledo describes the humanitarian mission as “unique and fortunate,” as they engage the local community they are impacting.
Deka and Robledo both expressed having joy in what they do and feel that serving in the U.S. Air Force has given them the opportunity to make the greatest impact for the positive change they want to see in the world. Deka refers to himself as a Chaplain for all. This is his second deployment in a year and a half after traveling to Kandahar, Afghanistan as their sole chaplain. After four years of serving as an Air Force chaplain, Deka says he “finds his passion for helping others who are less blessed.”
“I don’t like to use the words less fortunate when describing people who are struggling in life. I don’t consider people to be unfortunate, they are just less blessed than we are,” said Deka.
“For me when I look at a human being; because I have lived that life that many people say is unfortunate, I have lived in poverty and have had a very simple background, I believe it’s just the nature of life. Those less blessed just haven’t met their blessings yet, but we’re doing our best to change that and for us it’s just a matter of moving closer to find them,” said Deka.
“We as Airmen can be that blessing” said Deka.
Deka was directly impacted at a young age by those providing similar relief he now gives in his home country of Zambia, Africa. Deka describes this exposure as “important for me because I was able to see the impact and importance of giving to people in need.” Deka sees the similarities of his team’s efforts and compares them to what he thinks is the overall goal of the U.S. Military.
“What is our mission? Our mission here is not just about flying planes, or being proficient in operating your equipment or job. Why do you think we do all that? It’s because we want to preserve life,” said Deka. “Protecting our loved ones. What we are doing out here is fighting to preserve the lives of people by offering aid to those parents who are struggling to take care of their child. By supporting them, we’re giving these children and families a future, and by doing that we are supporting our mission, protecting life.”