Airmen build community relationships through volunteerism

SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. -- The strength of an Air Force base is built on many things – airmanship, resiliency, family and sense of community are just a few. These building blocks can act as a foundation Airmen use to maintain mission readiness and persevere in the face of adversity.

In the first of many reoccurring community outreach events planned for the 20th Fighter Wing, Team Shaw Airmen recently helped local families through the Sumter County, South Carolina, Habitat for Humanity organization, building not only a house but helping to strengthen community bonds.

“Volunteering as individuals or as a group,” said Chaplain (Capt.) James Finley, 20th Fighter Wing Chaplain Corps chaplain, “is a great outlet for our Airmen to be involved with the community and interact with peers and community members in a different setting.”

The new wing volunteering initiative is an opportunity for any Airman, regardless of rank or work center, to act as a representative of the 20th FW, and aims to create a sense of pride and ownership among 20th FW Airmen for the communities they live in.
“As service members,” said Finley, “we move frequently and have to uproot ties where we’ve made a home. Volunteering in local communities helps create new community ties and a sense of ‘home’ wherever we may be stationed.”

On a regular basis, private organizations and units across the installation coordinate volunteer efforts to benefit both on- and off-base entities.

Volunteering with an organization like Habitat for Humanity is a way for people to gain new skills, show a desire to learn, or showcase their expertise in a skill that is perhaps outside of an Airman’s Air Force career skillset.

For some Airmen, the benefits of volunteering exceed just the physical aspects, but also include having the opportunity to directly be a part of someone's life and enacting the Air Force core value of “service before self.”

“(Volunteering) feels good,” said 2nd Lt. Zackery Zounes, Habitat for Humanity volunteer, who wanted to give back to his temporary home of Sumter. “It feels like I’m investing in the future of the community. I feel like I’m contributing and doing something with my life outside of my job.”

Team Shaw members are invited to participate in future wing-organized community outreach events, as well as others offered across the installation, as a way to continually build upon and strengthen Shaw AFB’s and Sumter’s partnership bonds.

“‘The strength of a team is dependent on each individual, but the strength of the individual is dependent on the team,’” said Zounes, paraphrasing a quote. “Some people think service before self is to give everything you have away. That’s not it. You need to contribute as much as you can because we are a team in each sub-community – Shaw AFB, Sumter, South Carolina, the United States, the world, humanity – we are all in these sub-teams and for our team to be successful … we need to help each other out.”