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Lackland Airmen turn office areas into living spaces

by Tech. Sgt. J.C. Woodring
Air Force Print News

9/3/2005 - SAN ANTONIO  -- Airmen from nearby Lackland Air Force Base turned a building of office cubicles into living spaces Sept. 2 for as many as 2,500 people displaced from Hurricane Katrina.

About 200 Airmen were part of a citywide effort to prepare a 350,000 square foot office building, located at Kelly USA here, for evacuees coming from the Gulf Coast.

Most of the Airmen who helped are recent graduates of basic military training and were scheduled to attend technical training at storm-ravaged Keesler AFB, Miss. The hurricane put those plans on hold.

“It’s great to be part of the effort,” said Airman Keante Camel, who was scheduled to leave for Keesler on Aug. 28.

Typically when Airmen are held over at Lackland after they graduate, they are assigned to various tasks around the base. This is different.

“This is better than doing busy work,” said Airman Yohanna Tucker of the 331st Training Squadron who was also headed for Keesler. “At least here, we know we’re making a difference.”

The Airmen removed thousands of square feet of modular office furniture and replaced them with row upon row of cots -- 2,500 in all.

“Once the building is ready, our job here is done,” said Maj. Regina Goff, 737th Training Support Squadron commander. “It’s what the city needs right now, and we’re happy to help wherever we can.”

Staff Sgt. Christopher Clark said that once he explained what was going on to some of the hold-over Airmen, they jumped at the chance to help.

“They are ecstatic to be here,” said the military training instructor assigned to the 737th TRSS. He supervised 91 of the Airmen.

Because they were excited to get here did not mean that it was a easy assignment.

Airman Camel said she was “was not worried at all” about the hard work or the long hours. “I’ll work all day if I have to,” she said.

It took the Airmen about two hours to empty one large office space of modular furniture, Major Goff said. Then, they quickly filled the room with cots and moved on to the second room.

A third room was separated into two different areas, one for dining and another for children to play. The finishing touches on the dining area were being made when the first wave of evacuees arrived at the center.

Master Sgt. Luis Marquez, an American Red Cross volunteer assigned to Air Education and Training Command’s logistics directorate, was in charge of organizing the dining area.

“Right now, we’ve got enough space to feed 500 people at a time,” he said. “We’re just getting ready for when the people get here and are ready to eat.”

While some of the Airmen were scheduled to be at Keesler, others have never been there and still wanted to help.

“Someone else covered my classes so I could help,” said Tech. Sgt. Kimberly Shrader, a military training instructor assigned to the 737th TRSS. “I’m not from Louisiana, but if I was, I’d want someone to help me out.”

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