For his efforts and dedication to bringing hope to service members, one 86th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron Airman won the “Spirit of Hope” award during a ceremony presided over by Deputy Defense Secretary David L. Norquist.
U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Jorge L. Arce, 86th AMXS first sergeant, received the award as the Air Force representative at the Pentagon, Sept. 27.
The award, which was established in 1997 after Congress passed a measure to make Bob Hope an honorary veteran of the U.S. military service for his goodwill work on behalf of American service members, is awarded to one service member of each branch who most represent the spirit of Bob Hope.
“Arce is a vital member of the command triad here at the 86th AMXS,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Jeffrey Westerman, 86th AMXS commander. “His office is never empty and sometimes even has a line outside its door with Airmen seeking guidance and direction.”
Westerman sees Arce’s role as a first sergeant as more than just a responsibility.
“I like doing things I care about,” said Arce. “Everything I do, I do because I care about it. I have some investment in the outcome of whatever I do. [Being a first sergeant] is by far the best job I’ve ever had, simply because I am able to help people who aren’t able to help themselves.”
Arce advanced Operation Warm Heart, a local program that provides food and gift cards to more than 300 families throughout the Kaiserslautern Military Community.
“Operation Warm Heart gives back when no one else can,” Arce said. “While many helping agencies can assist Airmen in times of financial crisis, most only provide interest-free loans. Warm Heart works as a grant program. Anyone in need can apply, and then the Warm Heart council makes a decision on how to best help them. Not only will we set them up with budget classes or other assistance, we’ll make sure they have money to pay their bills.”
Arce also implemented a new and automated family care program, which is used by 80 other first sergeants in the KMC. The system allows first sergeants to share information between each other for military members who require a family care plan, in particular dual-military families. By streamlining and eliminating the extra plan that was often created when service members are in different units, Arce saved countless man-hours. Now, when turnover occurs between an incoming and outgoing first sergeant, the outgoing simply adds and gives privileges to the incoming first sergeant, who then can access and assist dual-military couples whenever they need it.
“Arce’s use of technology has greatly increased the squadron’s visibility on all things in the KMC,” said Westerman. “Some of the resources available in the states don’t exist overseas or there may be latency issues.”
In addition to his technological wonder, Arce personally led a renovation of the Ramstein Airman’s Attic, which provides free gently used clothing and home goods to thousands of enlisted members in the grade of E-5 and below and their families. According to Arce, the facility was on its last leg before he organized a team of volunteers who changed the store’s layout, moved shelving units, reorganized the store, and cleaned up the designated donation drop-off point. During the two years since Arce took over the facility, it has had only one non-operating closure.
Westerman added that Arce’s impact on the squadron and the KMC as a whole is immeasurable.
“Being a first sergeant in an overseas location ramps up the need to be even more active and educated on the resource needs of our Airmen,” Arce said. “As with any diamond-wearing senior noncommissioned officer, this is a way of life.”