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New welcoming committee greet incoming Airmen
The base dorm council at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., started a welcoming committee to greet new dorm residents in December 2012. Twice a week, a team of about five Airmen will introduce themselves to the new in-coming Airmen and Soldiers on base. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Krystal M. Jeffers/Released)
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New welcoming committee greet incoming Airmen

Posted 2/5/2013   Updated 2/5/2013 Email story   Print story

    


by Airman 1st Class Krystal M. Jeffers
20th Fighter Wing Public Affairs


2/5/2013 - Shaw Air Force Base, S.C.  -- The Airman dragged his luggage into the sparse dorm room. Looking around, the unfamiliar room seemed cold and desolate with it empty of decoration and personality. The light cream-colored walls were bare, the computer desk against the far wall stood empty, the bed lay on its frame white and naked, and the bathroom was stark.

As the Airman sat on the sheet-less bed with the sun setting through the window, loneliness suddenly hit him.

In basic training and at tech school, he had been surrounded by Airmen and friends, but now he was alone for the first time since leaving his parent's home. This new base he was sent to was filled with strangers.

Then, someone knocked on his door. Uncertainly, he opened the door to reveal an Airman with a big smile and an outreached hand.

This is the type of scenario the dorm council had in mind when they decided to start a new program for incoming Airmen into the dorm in December 2012.

"Before the holidays, Airman 1st Class Kistopher Willms, 20th Component Maintenance Squadron precision measurement equipment laboratory technician, brought up the idea of people getting depressed around the holidays and how Airmen can feel lonely or isolated," said Tech Sgt. Brian Ailstock, 20th Civil Engineer Squadron NCOIC of unaccompanied housing. "He thought it was a good idea to reach out to someone and start friendships which in turn may avoid depression."

After the discussion, the dorm council decided to form a welcoming committee of volunteers to greet new Airmen and Soldiers into the dorms within days of their arrival.

"I think the committee is important because it is Airmen taking care of Airmen," said Willms. "Commanders always say that we need to take care of our own people."

Taking care of one another can include something as introducing oneself to someone new to the area, taking them around base or just letting them know that you're there for them.

"I see it every day," said Ailstock. "Some Airmen are quiet and don't seem like they have a big social life. I remember when I was in the dorms. I was kind of just dropped off, and I didn't know anybody. I just sat in my room after work and watched TV. I was bored out of my mind. It would have been cool if someone had come over and been like 'hey man, welcome.'"

"This is not my idea, but I fully support it," continued Ailstock. "If the welcoming committee goes and introduces themselves right away to new people, I think that lets those people know that people care about them. I think it set a good foundation of positive experience and gives the impressions that we do care about them. It starts their journey at Shaw on a good foot."

Each week, the base dorms receive approximately five to six Airmen during the winter. In May, the amount of people arriving to the base each week increases to about 10 to 20 Airmen. During the summer, the number of new Airmen rises to 20 or more per week. In addition, Shaw receives about one or two Soldiers a month, according to Ailstock.

Within days of arriving to Shaw, dorm residents are scheduled for a briefing with the dorm managers where they receive information packets and are informed about rules and information important to dorms.

Each week, Ailstock receives a list of names of new dorm residents as they sign up for the in-processing briefing which is held every Tuesday and Thursday. He then forwards that list to the dorm chiefs and the dorm committee members.

The committee can then introduce themselves and talk to the new dorm residents within their first week on base and that is the most vital time to reach out to them, added Willms.

"After a few weeks you are going to have people who become jaded. If we can get them within the first week, we can start talking to them and making friendships which will help them not become jaded," he continued.

The committee visits not just the new Airmen but also Soldiers new to Shaw.

"We treat all dorm residents the same," said Ailstock. "It doesn't matter if they are a Soldier or Airmen because we are on the same team. Soldiers in the dorms are just like the Airmen. So when the soldiers come to our briefings, their names are forwarded with the Airmen's names and when I forward the names I don't put Army or Air Force."

When a new dorm resident is welcomed by the committee, they will be visited by a team of approximately five people. The teams will rotate each week.

"We have enough people that want to be a part of this that we don't want 10-15 people knocking on someone's door," said Ailstock. "The idea was brought up that something like that might be a little overwhelming to somebody."

"That way is it not putting pressure on anyone," said Willms.

When the committee welcomes a new dorm resident they will introduce themselves, inform them about the dorm council and what they do, answer any questions a resident may have and lay the groundwork to be a good friend or acquaintance if they need it, said Ailstock.

The committee and the teams are composed of all volunteers.

"I think this is what the wingman concept means: Airman taking care of Airmen," said Ailstock. "What I like is that it was the Airmen's idea. They are not being told to do it. It is their idea and they want to do it, and I think that is awesome. I hope the new residents appreciate it."

Any dorm resident can join the committee and being a part of the dorm council is not required for participation. If interested, contact Airman Tyler Cordell, president of the dorm council, at Tyler.Cordell@shaw.af.mil or call him at DSN: 965-9753.



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