Column by Airman 1st Class Zoe Perkins
71st Flying Training Wing Public Affairs
VANCE AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. – When a severe winter storm froze Team Vance training sorties, buried the base under 11 inches of snow, and stranded hundreds without water, heat or power Feb. 13 – 17 volunteers and helping agencies across the installation jumped into action providing hot meals and showers to those in need.
For more than 12 days, temperatures at Vance refused to climb higher than 32 degrees and at one point sunk all the way to –13 without wind chill. This caused pipes to freeze at people’s houses and rolling blackouts stripped those same families of electricity and heat.
“The Air Force is a large, diverse family, and Team Vance is a small subset of that, 71st Flying Training Wing Command Chief Master Sgt. Kristy Earls said Feb. 25. “When your family’s in trouble, you do everything you can to help.
Help came from many sides including the Fitness Center which served more than 850 members with hot showers, while the Greven Crosswinds Club served more than 230 hot meals, including 182 heater meals that are similar to meals ready to eat or MREs. The club also provided study rooms, games and movies for those displaced by the storm.
“It felt great being able to help during that time,” Dan Barzanti, the club manager said Feb. 25. “That’s what we’re here for. Taking care of our Airmen is our priority, and we were happy to do it.”
Six dorm rooms were issued to Airmen displaced by the cold at no cost, and Airmen and Family Readiness Center briefed service members about Air Force Aid financial assistance.
“We had active-duty Airmen, civilians, contractors, and even Army guardsmen whose families either lost power, heat, water or all three who came out to get a hot shower at the gym or a hot meal at the Vance Club,” Earls said. It’s also important to thank our essential workers who cleared the roads, kept the lights on, cooked the food, stayed ready to respond to any emergency, and stood to watch at our gates throughout the storm. Without their steadfast dedication, this installation would not have been ready to provide the assistance our families needed.”