Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Fundraising efforts by 188th family member pays off big for two Air National Guard units

by Tech. Sgt. Renni Thornton
451st AEW Public Affairs

3/2/2010 - KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan -- Two Air National Guard units turned on each other and waged war Feb. 22 in the hangar just outside the aircraft ramp where they work.

Members of the 188th Fighter Wing, Fort Smith, Ark., and the 175th Fighter Wing, Baltimore, Md., got a chance to open fire on each other after receiving a care package totaling more than 700 bats, balls and footballs.

Tech. Sgt. Shawn Thorne, an A-10 Thunderbolt II crew chief and Air Reserve Technician with the 188th, instigated the whole thing. Or rather his wife did.

"We deployed to the AOR back in January," Thorne said. "Since then, my wife has been raising money in our community to purchase morale items."

Thorne's wife, Sara Butler-Thorne, raised almost $1,000 and purchased the bats, wiffle balls and glow-in-the-dark footballs for the more than 200 Guardsmen here. According to Thorne, about 25 percent of the shipment was donated by a local dentist.

"I think I mentioned to my wife that when we have a little down time, we get bored," said the Fort Smith, Ark., native." She asked me what she could send us and I told her that when we were in Iraq last time, we had sports equipment - bats, balls, stuff like that."

Butler-Thorne ran with that idea. She first put the message on Facebook and asked if anybody wanted to donate to the sports package she was building. She received a few responses and then a local business owner offered to host a fundraiser at the sports bar she owns. Things took off from there, Butler-Thorne said.

"We had a silent auction and Friday night fundraisers," Butler-Thorne said from her home in Fort Smith, Ark. "The community here has been very supportive. We've raised about $1,000. With that, we purchased the equipment and sent it over."

Butler-Thorne, though, is not finished. She is still raising funds in the Arkansas community to support her next shipment - DVDs and DVD players for the men and women. To date, her efforts have raised another $2,000.

"My husband told me that none of the televisions there have DVD players, so we are sending them three DVD players, some movies, books, and a whole bunch of board games," she said.

The members out on the ramp said the effort is appreciated.

"Right around shift change, the guys opened the boxes and started playing with the wiffle balls, tossing Frisbees, tossing footballs," said Tech. Sgt. Jeremy Steel, crew chief and technician with the 104th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron. "We had a great time playing with the stuff."

The equipment could be viewed as a cohesive tool as well. The rotation, originally for 120 days, was split between the two organizations.

About 150 people from the Baltimore-based unit took the first half of the rotation. The second half will be covered by the 188th.

But members of the two groups are working side by side, a common occurrence among Guard units.

"We took the first half of the deployment, but some members of the 188th are here with us as well. When their unit gets here, they will most likely stay on with them and all go home together," said Master Sgt. David A. Yarbrough, 451st Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron first sergeant, who is the 175th first sergeant in Maryland.

Aside from the unique make-up of the unit, the sports equipment and future shipments of morale items is intended to help the maintainers unwind during down time.

Butler-Thorne, though, has one stipulation on the items being sent to the two units.

"They have to leave all the stuff over there when it's time to return home for the next group of people," she said. "The items are for morale; it doesn't matter whether it's for our guys or for the next unit. I guess it's kind of like paying it forward."

Members of the 188th Fighter Wing, based in Fort Smith, Ark., and the 175th Fighter Wing, based in Baltimore, Md., open care packages at Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan February 27, 2010. The boxes were filled with recreational items provided by Sarah Butler-Thorne, who raised more than $2,000 to help purchase the products. Butler-Thorne is the wife of Tech. Sgt. Shawn Thorne, a crew chief with the 188th. The 188th deployed 50 members to Kandahar January 4 as part of an Aerospace Expeditionary Force rotation. The 188th will deploy approximately 250 additional Guardsmen in early March, when the unit's official rotation begins. (Photo by Tech. Sgt. Shawn Thorne / 188th Fighter Wing) Hi-res


No comments:

Post a Comment