U.S. Air Force Airmen with the 125th Fighter Wing, Florida Air National Guard take advantage of great food from local food trucks, and sweet goodies, arranged by the Key Spouse Program during Operation Eagle Claw a Combat Skills Training Exercise, Jacksonville Fl, February 28, 2014. The ongoing Combat Skills Training ensures the 125th is prepared and ready to defend the State and Nation at all times. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by SMSgt Shelley Gill, Released)
U.S. Air Force Technical Sgt Aron White, Avionics Specialist with the 125th Fighter Wing, Florida Air National Guard takes advantage of great food from local food trucks, and sweet goodies, arranged by the Key Spouse Program during Operation Eagle Claw a Combat Skills Training Exercise, Jacksonville Fl, February 28, 2014. The ongoing Combat Skills Training ensures the 125th is prepared and ready to defend the State and Nation at all times. (Pictured (U.S. Air National Guard photo by SMSgt Shelley Gill, Released)
by Tech. Sgt. William Buchanan
125th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
3/4/2014 - Spouses from the 125th Fighter Wing raised nearly $500 selling baked goods to benefit Airmen in need. -- The fundraiser was orchestrated entirely by volunteers who planned, baked and offered goods on base during a two-day exercise, here this weekend. Although the treats were not being sold, the spouses did accept donations.
"The whole goal was to provide something nice and then raise a few funds to help with future programs that benefit our Airmen," said Laura Yates, Airman & Family Readiness Program Coordinator. "It doesn't necessarily manage well with the fitness program, but in this circumstance it was definitely appropriate."
Rachel Simpler, wife to 125th Fighter Wing Commander Col. Brian Simpler, led a team of volunteer spouses, of 125FW Airmen, to coordinate this fundraiser. She said spouses baked a wide variety of treats to increase morale and give the Airmen something to look forward to during the exercise.
"There were several Airmen who came along and bought up maybe 30 treats to help out and bring back to their squadron," Simpler said.
All funds raised will be collected and distributed by the Airmen and Family Readiness Program. Yates said these funds go toward helping Airmen in need during short-term situations where other programs are lacking.
"Sometimes we have members who don't have enough gas to get home from drill weekend, or they've lost their job and can't pay their rent, or they need $50 worth of groceries," Yates said. "Usually it's a First Sergeant or a commander that comes to us and says, 'We have this person in need,' and we're able to provide just a small form of assistance, which can actually go a long way to helping somebody."
The fundraiser was positioned alongside civilian food trucks, which were also coordinated through the volunteer spouses. Simpler said the plan to bring food trucks on base was originally a tasking for officers on base, but she saw the opportunity to provide a service to free up time for service members to concentrate on military training.
"You have more time to focus on your mission: the exercise," Simpler said. "You have more time to focus on the war not have to worry about where you're going to get your food."
Yates said this was the first time food trucks had ever been brought on base. To accomplish this, Security Forces Airmen first had to conduct criminal background checks on all food truck proprietors before they came on base. Then, before any food was sold, Airmen from the 125th Medical Group checked the food trucks and checked their food handling standards to ensure no real-world health issues, such as food poisoning, impacted the combat skills training conducted during the exercise.
Over the course of the two days, hundreds of Airmen took advantage of both the food trucks and the baked goods from the fundraiser. Yates said while this was a novel way to introduce new food options to Airmen on base, it was also a unique opportunity for the food trucks to learn more about the presence of the Air National Guard in Jacksonville.
"Many people don't even know this base is here," Yates said.
Yates said the food trucks and the fundraiser were very successful additions to the exercise, and with proper authorization, the volunteer spouses and the Airman and Family Readiness Program plan to repeat these programs in the future.
"It was a win for both leadership and our Airmen to have the spouses coming in and helping with something of this magnitude," Yates said.