Augmentee lends a helping hand

U.S. Air Force Capt. Renee Hawn, 691st Cyber Operations Squadron chief of weapons and tactics, volunteers as an augmentee during Operation Allies Refuge at Ramstein Air Base, Aug. 29. As the Kinder Pod augmentee lead, she is responsible for directing the augmentees and volunteers assisting with the temporary lodging for unaccompanied minors.

U.S. Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa is providing temporary lodging, medical and logistical support to evacuees at Ramstein Air Base, as part of Operation Allies Refuge.

During this time, volunteers are working around the clock to sort, package and distribute donated items to evacuees.

“When the donation effort was stood up, the intent was to channel the compassion of the population into an actionable way to serve the immediate need of clothing deficits and appropriate weather clothing,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Kevin Rasmussen, 86th Dental Squadron chief of oral and maxillofacial surgery. “It started out as a grassroots effort by the Kaiserslautern Military Community First Sergeant Council. The next phase was to create a distribution system for all of the donations, and then channel them to backfill the efforts of the Red Cross.”

The 86th Airlift Wing Emergency Operations Center is responsible for coordinating and delivering the donations twice a day. The kits are pre-packaged according to gender and age and then delivered.

“The volunteers are working so hard and people keep asking how they can do more,” said Heather Leonard, military spouse. “I’m so happy to see a community come together for strangers and to have so many give what they have, whether it’s donations or it’s their time.”

U.S. Air Force Capt. Renee Hawn, 691st Cyber Operations Squadron chief of weapons and tactics prepares a pod for unaccompanied minors arriving at Ramstein Air Base during Operation Allies Refuge, August 29. Unaccompanied minors remain supervised at all times and special care is given to ensure that they have all the food, water, clothing, shelter and hygiene they need.

Nearly 100 volunteers a day, working side by side with the American Red Cross, have moved thousands of kits.

“As their items deplete and they await more from their side, we are able to deliver and backfill their operations,” Rasmussen said. “This allows our distribution system to directly support the heroic efforts of our Red Cross volunteers.”

As evacuees depart, the wing’s augmented members assist in cleaning, reorganizing, and restocking the pods in preparation to receive more evacuees. It’s at that time that volunteers deliver the pre-made kits.

“We did what we do best in the military, which is identify a gap, create a process to mitigate it, find and support the manning and then test it out,” Rasmussen said. “This process, from the design, to changes, setbacks and then to miracles, has touched thousands, all because of those willing to give, adapt, serve and willing to find a way to make a miracle happen.”

Operation Allies Refuge is about humanity, it’s about taking care of people, saving lives and providing hope.