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First sergeants give back through Operation Warm Heart

First sergeants and Operation Warm Heart volunteers pose for a photo at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont. Operation Warm Heart is a non-profit organization created by the First Sergeants Council to raise money and provide relief for Airmen and their families all throughout the year. (Courtesy photo)

First sergeants and Operation Warm Heart volunteers pose for a photo at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont. Operation Warm Heart is a non-profit organization created by the First Sergeants Council to raise money and provide relief for Airmen and their families all throughout the year. (Courtesy photo)

Airmen 1st Class Stephen L. Blyden, left, and Loglo A. Kouava, 341st Civil Engineer Squadron electrical power production apprentices, raise money for Operation Warm Heart Dec. 11, 2020, at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont. Operation Warm Heart is a non-profit organization created by the First Sergeants Council to raise money and provide relief for Airmen and their families all throughout the year. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Daniel Brosam)

Airmen 1st Class Stephen L. Blyden, left, and Loglo A. Kouava, 341st Civil Engineer Squadron electrical power production apprentices, raise money for Operation Warm Heart Dec. 11, 2020, at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont. Operation Warm Heart is a non-profit organization created by the First Sergeants Council to raise money and provide relief for Airmen and their families all throughout the year. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Daniel Brosam)

MALMSTROM AIR FORCE BASE, Mont. -- While the holidays are here and Airmen take a break to celebrate the end of the year, first sergeants across the wing are out and about raising money for Airmen and their families through Operation Warm Heart.

Operation Warm Heart is a non-profit organization created by the First Sergeants Council to raise money and provide relief for Airmen and their families all throughout the year.

“The holiday season is really where you see Operation Warm Heart ramp up in events and donations and for a good reason,” said Master Sgt. Jack Pederson, 341st Medical Group first sergeant. “This is the time of year when there is also the most in need. Holidays can be a very stressful time and Thanksgiving seems to mark the first large scale effort in giving back every year.”

The First Sergeants Council held the Turkey Trot this year, an organized run event where Airmen donated more than 700 pounds of non-perishable food used to build 100 baskets of Thanksgiving dinners to fill food shortages across the wing and the local area.

Last week, the First Sergeants Council opened booths at the Base Exchange and Commissary where volunteers across the wing manned 124 volunteer slots for 2-hour shifts, collecting money for Operation Warm Heart.

“It’s been very eye opening,” said Pederson. “On day one, I literally put the table cloth on the booth and a staff sergeant handed me 20 dollars before I even got the donation jar out. He saw the Operation Warm Heart sign and that was all he needed to know.

“It really goes to show that this cause and the folks across the base understand how important it is,” he continued.

Although COVID-19 has provided obstacles for the first sergeants, they have found ways to continue to give back, all while keeping everyone safe.

“COVID-19 has been a factor,” Pederson said. “We just adjust to take the necessary precautions but keep pressing forward.

“We have said it in our meetings many times, we can’t let COVID-19 be an excuse to not get out there,” he continued. “We just have to go about it a different way and keep pushing.”

Just last month the First Sergeants Council distributed $2,000 in $25 gift cards to Airmen across the wing. Pederson said although it is small scale assistance, it is still making a big impact despite COVID-19 limitations.

“Operation Warm Heart aligns with the core of the first sergeants and what they represent,” Pederson said. “We are 100% about our people and their families.

“At the end of the day, the mission doesn’t operate at full capacity when things on the home front are struggling,” he said. “It gives us the ability to help anyone no matter how big or small. When a need is brought to our attention, we vote on it and cut the check – no strings attached.”

The First Sergeants Council encourages Airmen and their families in need to reach out to their first sergeants and helping agencies across the base to get the assistance they need.

“There have been many times where we were able to positively impact an Airman’s life and career by utilizing these funds,” said Master Sgt. Eric Thomsen, 841st Missile Security Forces Squadron first sergeant. “What I want everyone to understand is that I am not suggesting Operation Warm Heart is better than the other resources provided to our Airmen on base. However, when life happens, it rarely happens during the duty day, and that is where we can make a difference.”
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