Air Guard continues food bank support in Lakewood
By Capt. Hans Zeiger, 194th Wing
/ Published October 14, 2020
LAKEWOOD, Wash.—Airmen from the Washington Air National Guard’s 194th Wing are taking part in an ongoing food bank support mission throughout Washington State during the COVID-19 emergency, including service at multiple locations in Lakewood. Airmen are working with Army Guard soldiers to process, package, and distribute food for individuals and families.
One of the sites where Airmen are serving is the Nourish Pierce County warehouse in Lakewood. “We show up first thing in the morning, we load the first truck, then we start loading non-perishable food boxes, and when we’re caught up on that, we move on to building boxes,” said Airman 1st Class Ian Storm of Buckley, a cyber transport specialist with the 111th Air Support Operations Squadron. Storm began his service on the food bank mission on April 1 at the Edgewood Food Bank before transferring to the Nourish Pierce County warehouse in June.
Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jason Jenkins of the Army Guard’s 341st Military Intel battalion is the officer in charge for the Nourish Pierce County warehouse and Nourish’s mobile food distribution sites. “It’s a well-oiled machine in terms of [distributing] and getting food,” said Jenkins.
Tech. Sgt. Jameson Coulombe of Orting, a member of the 194th Security Forces Flight, began his service with Nourish Pierce County’s Lakes Area mobile distribution site in April, sorting food and loading vehicles. Later, he transferred to the Nourish warehouse. Coulombe said that he knows people who have been impacted by COVID-19. “I wanted to do something to help,” he said. “I have been involved in six deployments, and it’s nice to do something local versus overseas.”
Coulombe said that having an impact locally is what motivated him to get involved in the food bank mission. “I have the opportunity to actually help out the local community. It’s why I volunteered,” said Coulombe.
At a second warehouse across Lakewood, soldiers and airmen work to prepare food boxes for distribution. Staff Sgt. Chester De Guzman of Silverdale, a radio transmission specialist with the 111th Air Support Operations Squadron, described the work. “We’re making boxes to bring up the line to the Army folks,” said De Guzman. “They’re loading them up with canned goods and non-perishable items.” On a typical day, the service members prepare around 2,000 boxes, according to De Guzman. “Two thousand boxes a day will feed a lot of people,” said De Guzman. “We’re doing this five days a week, and I feel like it’s a good way to serve our community.”
Senior Airman Kelly Ford of Lacey, a material handler in the 194th Logistics Readiness Squadron, started her service at a Seattle food bank in April. She volunteered a second time to help in Lakewood in August. Ford said that she joined the Guard four years ago to help people in need. “I always see National Guard on TV, and I was like, ‘I want to be part of that. I want to help with a mobilization and also fight overseas if I’m able to deploy,’” she said.
Airman Sara Mark of Lakewood came to work at the Nourish warehouse on a State Active Duty status as part of the 194th Wing’s student flight. It is the first time ever that student flight members have been able to come on State Active Duty to support domestic operations, according to Senior Master Sgt. John Austin, superintendent of the 194th Force Support Squadron. Mark recently completed Basic Military Training and is awaiting technical training to begin work as a personnel specialist. She said that she is happy to be part of the food packing team. “It feels good knowing that I’m helping and making a difference,” said Mark.
Altogether, soldiers and airmen from the Washington National Guard have taken part in processing, packaging, and distributing more than 55 million pounds of food since the start of the COVID-19 emergency.
Jenkins said he hears gratitude from community members on a daily basis. “Every day we’re out at mobile food sites, we get to interact with the public there,” said Jenkins. “People are thanking us for being there, thanking us for our service.”