By Barbara Behling, Jim McIntyre and April Oppliger, American Red Cross 

HOUSTON, Texas – Volunteers from two highly skilled U.S. Air Force squadrons have joined forces with the American Red Cross to add muscle to a humanitarian mission: helping those affected by Hurricane Harvey.

Members of the military units drove from Montana and Maryland on their own time and dime to offer logistics expertise and other specialized skills to run a massive Red Cross field supply center and get materials to those affected by the hurricane.

One member of this volunteer team is Airman First Class Nick Barth, who comes from a coastal area and has seen the impacts of other storms on his own community.

“It’s important to me to try to help get these people back on their feet,” he said. “As hokey and corny as it sounds, what I love doing most is helping people.”

Ready to serve

The 819th Rapid Emergency Deployment – Heavy Operation Repair Squadron Engineers, known as RED HORSE, at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana, watched the hurricane unfold on television, and they knew their logistics expertise would be valuable.

Red Horse group shot
Members of the 819th Rapid Emergency Deployment – Heavy Operation Repair Squadron Engineers, known as RED HORSE, from Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana are volunteering at a supply center/warehouse in Houston. (Red Cross photo by Jim McIntyre)

A team of five loaded a pickup truck with their own cots, tents and a few resources donated by the community and drove toward Texas. On the way, they contacted the Red Cross to offer their services. Once they arrived, they helped build a new warehouse operation from the ground up. The team continues to manage day-to-day operations at the site.

“On the first day of operations for this facility, we sent 29 of these trucks out to help the community. That’s a remarkable number,” said Captain David Geaney, who is serving as the site’s director of operations.

“I’ve seen a lot of distribution operations in the Air Force. That is a pretty exceptional feat.”

Volunteers from the 29th Intelligence Squadron at Fort Mead, Maryland, have a similar story: They covered their own expenses to come to Texas to support relief and recovery efforts. This team of 15 is operating forklifts and loading bulk supplies in the warehouse as well as driving trucks into neighborhoods where residents are still struggling to salvage belongings and make homes livable.

Air Force volunteers_Heidi
Heidi Agustin-Dominguez of the  819th Rapid Emergency Deployment – Heavy Operation Repair Squadron, at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana is volunteering at a supply center/warehouse in Houston. (Red Cross photo by Jim McIntyre)

Every day as many as 30 trucks carry things like water, trash bags, bug spray, bleach, rakes, shovels, mops, gloves, diapers, coolers, snacks and more into affected communities.

Thanks to the generosity of the American public and more than 2,000 volunteers, the Red Cross is able to respond to disasters like Hurricane Harvey and provide materials like these at no cost to storm-affected residents.

“We’re just grateful for the opportunity that we’ve had and how well we were received by the Red Cross,” Staff Sergeant Roxana Ozuna said. “The impact that is being made through the Red Cross to these families is impressive. It’s very fulfilling.”

Air Force volunteers_29th Intelligence Squadron
Members of  the United States Air Force 29th Intelligence Squadron, Fort Mead, Maryland  are volunteering at a supply center/warehouse in Houston. (Red Cross photo by April Oppliger)