First sergeants feed families
By Airman 1st Class Austin Harvill, 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs
/ Published November 19, 2012
LANGLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Va. -- Cranberry sauce, stuffed turkeys and honey-baked hams will soon fill the tabletops of many households nationwide.
But at Langley Air Force Base, Va., some of those households would not have a Thanksgiving feast if not for Operation Warmheart, which allows first sergeants to step up and help Airmen in need.
OWH is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the well-being of Langley families. It raises money throughout the year to provide for struggling Airmen at any point in their lives, whether it be for covering the costs of a holiday feast, or providing a little extra money to get back on track.
"Operation Warmheart is all about giving back to the Airmen," said Master Sgt. Ariane Freeman, 633rd Medical Group first sergeant. "The funds received go straight to Airmen here at Langley."
During the Thanksgiving time frame, OWH pulls out all the stops. The Thanksgiving food basket give-away is the largest event OWH presents. Money raised throughout the year via 5Ks and donations allowed the Joint Base Langley-Eustis First Sergeant Council to make roughly 550 food baskets for Airmen in need.
The food baskets aren't just packs of crackers either. Each basket contains cranberry sauce, stuffing, mashed potatoes and other traditional fixings. The baskets do not come with a ham or a turkey, but rather a food voucher for the Airmen to make the selection themselves, which benefits vegetarian Airmen who might want an alternative.
Making the food baskets instills a great sense of pride, said Master Sgt Ryan McCauley, 633rd Civil Engineer Squadron first sergeant.
"Our job as first sergeants is to get our Airmen exactly what they need," he said. "Having the opportunity to help 550 families makes me love what I do."
The baskets are only one instance of the impact OWH has on the JBLE community.
OWH's main mission is to provide grants to Airmen in need. If an Airman is struggling financially, and needs cash for food, gas money or other necessities, the JBLE First Sergeant Council will evaluate the needs of the Airman and provide a grant to help during a time of need.
Random Acts of Kindness became a part of the OWH mission in the spring of 2012. The JBLE First Sergeant Council gave out cold drinks to flightline Airmen, provided gas cards and paid the grocery bills of Airmen at the commissary; all entirely at random. The RAK initiative showed Airmen they don't need to request help to be recognized by the Langley community and that they are valuable to the mission.