By Scott Prater
The 50th Operations Group Standardization and Evaluation Division earned a prestigious award for its work in supporting the Colorado Springs community recently.
Thanks to numerous volunteer efforts in a wide variety of community projects, 50 OGV took home a 2013 Community Hero award from the Military Officers Association of America.
During 2013, 50 OGV members participated in community support events, ranging from building a home for a wounded Army sergeant and his family, to organizing donation efforts at a local food bank following the devastating Black Forest fire and supporting the 2013 Warrior Games.
“It’s nice to be honored for our efforts and we want to let Team Schriever members know that what they do outside of work is appreciated by the community, but honestly, we didn’t know anything about this award until recently,” said Senior Master Sgt. Christine Wall, one of the division’s lead volunteer coordinators. “We just know that volunteering and providing community support builds organization morale and more importantly, helps tie Schriever to the community.”
During their year-long effort, unit volunteers also served as the Air Force lead for the first-ever Front Range Joint Forces Retiree Appreciation Day, honoring the nation’s 23 million veterans, to include more than 400,000 in Colorado Springs. They also organized the state’s World War II Remembrance event and coordinated the Noncommissioned Officer Vanguard Award event, which recognized five joint-enlisted members for their heroic acts of preventing injuries and saving lives.
Though the division currently holds a total of 23 members, as many as 39 will be recognized during the MOAA Community Heroes banquet at the Antlers Doubletree Hotel Friday evening.
“We’re including past members of the division who have either moved on to other units on base or around the world because they participated in our volunteer events while they were connected to 50 OGV,” said Capt. Gail Smicklas, another unit-volunteer lead in the division. “One hundred percent of us couldn’t participate in every event because we must still conduct our 50 OGV mission, but every single person in the division took part in at least one of our community-support projects.”
For instance, Smicklas, Wall and Capt. Kristina Stewart helped drive the first women in space panel, leading eight active duty women in providing space-mission insight and promoting science, technology, engineering, and math careers to 45 children from military families. The division also sponsored military awards for nine Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps programs to recognize and build future leaders of the armed forces.
Timing proved crucial for 50 OGV members this past summer, when they provided 80 hours of assistance at a local food bank following the outbreak of the Black Forest fire.
Because many 50 OGV members had volunteered at Care and Share in the past, Wall knew that the food bank would be overwhelmed during the fire’s first week. So, she contacted Care and Share’s volunteer coordinator and signed up as many 50 OGV members as possible.
Though they knew what to expect, the division’s volunteers were still shocked by what they witnessed once onsite — cars and people lined up for more than quarter mile waiting to donate.
“It was gratifying to see the community come together like that,” Wall said. “Some people waited in line for hours just to hand us a check. We received a lot of thanks for our service.”
While some members helped at the food bank, another division group prepared two servicemembers and their families for emergency evacuation during the wild fire, while many also helped with the state’s flood-relief effort, cleaning debris and re-establishing a safe environment for the return of more than 11,000 civilian, military, and veteran evacuees.
All 50 OGV members, along with 50 OG and 50th Space Wing leaders have been invited to attend the awards banquet along with their spouses.
“For me, volunteering at the food bank during the Black Forest fire really stands out,” Smicklas said. “Many of the folks we talked to had been victims of last year’s Waldo Canyon fire. It was gratifying to see that they were inspired and excited to give back. We got to meet a lot of cool people. Many even wanted to take photos along with us in our uniforms.”