EAST HARTFORD, Conn. – As the 103rd Airlift Wing increases the number of activated personnel to support COVID-19 response missions throughout the state, a team of Airmen is lending a hand to help the many Connecticut residents in need of food assistance.
The 10 Airmen are assisting logistics operations at a Foodshare drive-thru emergency distribution site that operates Tuesdays and Thursdays at Rentschler Field, typically the site of home football games for the University of Connecticut.
“There’s usually three to five stations – some people help with traffic, others with cleanup, as well as putting food in the cars,” said Master Sgt. Gregory Jones, 103rd Logistics Readiness Squadron air transportation specialist and site noncommissioned officer in charge of Guard personnel. “We have teams of three that help put the heavier boxes into cars so we can keep the line moving efficiently.”
Guardsmen and civilian volunteers work together to put packages of meat, bread and a U.S. Department of Agriculture Farmers to Families food box in each vehicle.
The Guard’s support is a welcome sight for Foodshare’s volunteers, many of whom have been working at the site since it opened April 20.
“The volunteers have donated 17,000 hours of their time just at this site to make it happen,” said Dom Piccini, Foodshare logistics manager. “We’ve distributed over 8 million pounds of food to 233,000 cars in that time.”
For Staff Sgt. Melbourne Foster, it has already been a unique experience in his Guard career.
“This mission hits you differently knowing that so many people are going through a difficult time, like here where some people don’t know where their next meal is going to come from,” said Foster, a member of the 103rd Civil Engineer Squadron. “Being able to help distribute food and help our local community is really meaningful.”
Jones commended Airmen like Foster, who volunteered to help the Guard’s pandemic response missions throughout the state.
“We’ve been doing this since last March – whether it be (distributing personal protective equipment) PPE or doing COVID-19 testing – and it’s an even bigger operation now with more folks being activated,” said Jones. “A lot of people temporarily left their civilian jobs to come help the community in its time of need, and that’s what the National Guard does.”
The Guard’s support has been a great help to Foodshare’s mission, said Piccini.
“They step in, no questions asked, they get it done, and they do a great job,” said Piccini. “They’re compassionate because they know what people are going through. It’s been great having them here.”