Certain people are able to light up a room just by walking through the door. For the 405th Army Field Support Brigade, one Army spouse has been able to do just that — but in her case she does it for an entire battalion and now hundreds, if not thousands of Afghan evacuees in need.
Katie Weschler, the spouse of Maj. Leonard Weschler, arrived at Army Field Support Battalion Mannheim, 405th AFSB, in July. Married in December last year after meeting her Army husband when he was a Defense Language Institute company commander at Presidio of Monterey, Katie is a new Army spouse. And her husband is now the battalion’s new executive officer.
“She literally showed up to the battalion only about a month ago and has already done so many amazing things,” said Lt. Col. Brian Astwood, AFSBn Mannheim commander. “Her background is crisis communications management and Red Cross volunteer support as well as journalism. She’s putting all that experience to use here and more, and we really really appreciate her.”
When it was announced that Ramstein Air Base and Rhine Ordnance Barracks in Kaiserslautern would be used to support thousands of Afghan evacuees as part of Operation Allies Refuge, Katie leapt into action to help.
“I put out an ask on Sunday on my personal social media pages, telling everyone I knew that there was a huge need for clothing, blankets, supplies — and if you wanted to donate, here’s how,” said Katie. “I was honestly expecting between $500 and $1,000.”
“We hit $2,000 on Monday, then $3,000, then $4,000 and now we’re up to $6,500 in cash donations,” said Katie, a native of Simi Valley, California.
Katie — who holds a bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism and a master’s degree in public policy from California Polytechnic State University — had already started volunteering at the Red Cross on Ramstein Air Base, supporting the Operation Allies Refuge mission there.
With thousands of Afghans evacuees flying into Ramstein — many of whom Katie said are traveling with nothing more than the clothes on their backs and the shoes on their feet — the daughter of a firefighter and granddaughter of a Red Cross nurse knew she had to do more.
So with the money she raised, Katie and her husband went on a shopping spree.
“We went to a local store at a mall here, and we bought a bunch of shoes, jackets, bras and other needed items,” Katie said, “and we’re planning on doing another trip for whatever supplies are still needed after today — probably more jackets and blankets.”
Katie said all the items purchased were brought to a sorting center on Ramstein Air Base where they were sorted into donation piles, along with loads more of donated items from across the Kaiserslautern Military Community.
From the sorting center, the items she bought as well as all the donations from people from across the KMC — both Army and Air Force — will be taken to the fulfillment center, closer to where the Afghan evacuees are staying, Katie said.
“For many families – from what we’ve seen in the last few days – they really do need everything,” Katie said.
But Katie didn’t just gather donated money from friends and family on social media and go shopping. She’s spent countless hours working at the Red Cross and at the sorting center on Ramstein – and more importantly – she’s brought the 405th AFSB’s Mannheim team into the fold.
“She’s our lead person for this mission, said Astwood, who plans on presenting Katie with a battalion commander’s coin and a certificate of appreciation. Katie has led the charge on what we are doing here in support of Operation Allies Refuge. She brought people from the battalion together and helped them with their donations and showed them how they can volunteer their time. She’s doing amazing work.”
“It’s just really heartwarming to see the generosity of all these people,” Katie said.
Participating in something like this with a group of people — especially when it’s a battalion headquarters — helps build comradery and brings people together, said Katie who enjoys ballet and traveling when she’s not volunteering for the sake of others.
“It helps build lasting relationships,” the 32-year-old Army spouse said, “and it makes a difference in people’s lives.”
“I just knew we had to do something,” said Katie.