05/05/06 — SJAFB crew collects supplies for children in Southwest Asia

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SJAFB crew collects supplies for children in Southwest Asia

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on May 5, 2006 1:50 PM

It began as an informal collection -- a few sheets of notebook paper and a box of crayons. But when a pair of deployed Seymour Johnson Airmen told their friends and family back in Goldsboro about their idea, a nationwide fundraiser took shape.

Two members of the 336th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron continue to raise school supplies for children living in Africa and the Middle East. Operation Good Deeds is "a way to give back," they said.

Airmen with School Supplies

Photo submitted

336th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron members "Voodoo," an F-15 E Strike Eagle pilot, and "Razor," a weapons officer, sort through boxes of school supplies collected for Operation Good Deed.

F-15 E Strike Eagle pilot "Voodoo" and weapon systems officer "Razor," said the project started when they told some friends and family members not to send traditional care packages to their base in Southwest Asia, but to include school supplies instead.

The pilots are identified by their call signs -- and not their names -- to ensure their safety overseas and that of their families back home.

What they didn't know was that their generosity would create a "snowball" and gain momentum -- to the tune of 1,500 pounds of markers, crayons and other supplies.

"We are just amazed with how big this project has become," Voodoo said. "It is such an honor to be a part of it."

When the word got out back home about the 336th's efforts, the generosity spread, he added.

"We've received things from all kinds of folks," Voodoo said. "It started with our friends and families, but then it spread to churches and the base (Seymour Johnson) and across the country from California to Wisconsin."

And that was all it took, Razor said. The boxes began pouring in.

"It really just snowballed," he said. "As stuff came in, we had boxes and boxes of stuff coming in from the base. We didn't even have enough places to store them in the squadron."

Soon after their arrival in Southwest Asia, the supplies were sorted into grab bags for the children and organized boxes to meet the schools needs. Then, they were delivered.

When the supplies reached a remote community in Ethiopia, Staff Sgt. Paul Rogers said the village was "overjoyed and overwhelmed" with the gifts. Rogers, an Army Reservist serving with the 35th Military Police in Gode, Ethiopia, said the schoolchildren didn't have any paper or pencils before their grab bags arrived.

"Their school building was basically an empty mud-thatched shack with an aluminum sheet roof," he said in a news release issued by the base. "Now this same building is one of hope and excitement toward learning because of all the school supply donations."

Razor said he realizes the supplies will be greatly appreciated. After all, like Rogers said, the schools they are being sent to are smaller than some classrooms back home in Wayne County.

"Some of the places we have sent supplies didn't have desks," he said. "And they didn't have chairs. These (donations) were the only things supplied during the school year."

Voodoo said the experience represents "something bigger than ourselves."

Razor added it puts things into perspective.

"When you see kids out there just asking for water, you know this goes above and beyond what they expected," he said. "People back home have given so much already and it's just amazing. Thank you for opening your hearts."