Ramstein volunteers assist in humanitarian initiatives

by Airman 1st Class Ciara M. Travis
86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Twelve Airman representing the Kaiserslautern Military Community volunteered July 19 to 28, packing, loading and shipping 13,000 books to Rwanda. The Airmen worked to support and assist with an effort to supply teachers and students with books upon Rwanda’s switch of their official language from French to English.

With some research, retired Army Lt. Col. Michael Smith discovered that the library on Sembach Air Base would be closing with the downsizing of bases in Germany.  With the help of the Ausbildunghilfe Ruanda foundation, Smith located a Catholic University that was in need of the books.

Smith then had to come up with volunteers and the funding to ship 20 tons of books to Rwanda.

“The state of Rheinland-Pfalz agreed to pay the 10,000 Euro transportation costs for the books,” Smith said. This left the daunting task of packing, loading and shipping $154,000 worth of books. For this procedure, Smith contacted Travis Schaben, U.S. Air Force Library Kaiserslautern reference librarian. Mr. Schaben sent out a message to several units to ask for help.

“Suddenly my email box was full of messages from potential volunteers.” said Smith. “We ended up with 12 Air Force volunteers which helped out with the heavy work when needed.” Even though the job was heavy work and required much dedication, the small group of volunteers saw the need and committed themselves to the project until the end. Each volunteer brought a different skill set to the job, all working to complete the puzzle of making sure the people of Rwanda would have a new library to help further their education.

“I knew that this would make a big impact in Rwanda even though we wouldn’t get to see the difference first hand,” said Staff Sgt. Francisco Rolon, 86th Maintenance Operations Squadron maintenance analyst. Staff Sgt. Rolon was just one of the 12 dedicated volunteers that gave time to the Rwanda project. “Volunteering for events like this allows you to get out and do something for others,” said Staff Sgt. Rolon. “That is a reward within itself. It was also very rewarding to see Mr. Martins appreciation for the work that we did.”

After 375 meters of foam wrap, 45 rolls of packing tape, 400 cardboard boxes, and 800 meters of shrink wrap, the finished project weighed nearly 22 U.S. tons. This would not have been possible if it weren’t for the Air Force volunteers.
“If it weren’t for the help of the 12 Air Force volunteers, the project would not have been completed on schedule,” said Mr. Martin. “They all did such an excellent job.” Mr. Martin’s thanks to:

USAFE 86 MOS/MXOOA – Johnson, Ebony E. (A1C), Rolon, Francisco Jr. (TSgt.), Sumner, William A. (A1C).
AFISRA 450 IS/DOBE – Williams, Patrick M. (TSgt.)
AMC 721 APS/TRKS – Hanner, Kip R. (TSgt.), Walker, Andrew L. (SSgt.)
USAFE 86 MUNS/LGWPA – Kiel, Troy R. (A1C), Fike, Zachary J. (A1C)
USAFE 85 MUNS/LGWCC – Sosh, Donnie R. (SSgt.)
USAFE 721 APS/TRE – Tomeskog, Mark S. (SSgt.)
USAFE 721 APS/TRP – Jordan, Nickolas R. (SSgt.)
USAFE 435 CTS/CEXTI – Colekraty, Samuel (SSgt.)