FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md. --
More than 9,000 homes and businesses on Kent Island were affected when an EF-2 tornado tore across Maryland’s Eastern shore July 24, 2017. The tornado produced winds up to 125 mph and destroyed several homes, tore roofs from buildings and left thousands of people without power.
When Airman 1st Class Jesus Carrillo found out about the tornado, he didn’t hesitate to provide aid.
Carrillo, a radio frequency transmission technician with the 707th Communication Squadron, learned about the tornado when he received an e-mail alert from the American Red Cross. The e-mail was seeking volunteers in the local area to respond to the aftermath of the tornado.
Dedicated to supporting his community, Carrillo submitted leave so he could join the relief efforts.
Still fairly new to the Red Cross, Carrillo has been a volunteer for a couple of months and has been assisting as a disaster services and disaster action team member.
As a team member, his duties include providing food, shelter, comfort and care for families affected by major disasters such as fires, hurricanes and tornadoes.
“The disaster action team really interested me,” Carrillo said. “Just being one of the first people on the scene and helping people in their immediate need is really rewarding to me.”
“When I arrived to Kent Island on Thursday, it looked like a war zone,” said Carrillo. “Trees were destroyed, houses were torn apart and debris was everywhere.”
One of his first tasks was helping the disaster center that was established as a focal point for the tornado victims. The disaster center provided victims access to social services, animal control, public health, the sheriff’s office, a shelter organization and many other groups, according to Carrillo.
“I was overwhelmed at first – there was so much going on,” he said. “Some folks were coming in barefoot and others without shirts. It shows you how much they have been going through and what some have lost.”
After his time in the disaster center, Carrillo moved onto the “Hot Shot team” or “Mobile team,” where he traveled through the community to reach people who couldn’t travel to the disaster center.
Going out into the community to help families would cause a chain reaction, he said, because neighbors would see the volunteers helping a family, and then the neighbors would come to the volunteers for help.
“It was difficult to call it a day and stop helping,” the 20-year-old Airman said. “We were tasked to help until 7 p.m., but we were often helping for another hour and half. It’s the small things that do make a difference – like handing someone a bottle of water.”
Carrillo recalled having to hold back tears during an interaction with an elderly lady during his assignment in the community.
“She had a grandchild with her and they were without electricity and water, and we ended up giving her a $650 debit card to help with food and a place to stay,” Carrillo said. “The lady was in shock about all the support and money. We sat on her porch describing all the things we were going to do to help out the community and get them back on their feet, and she started crying and some of the volunteers started to tear up as well.”
Carrillo said the training he received from both the Red Cross and the Air Force helped prepare him for these moments.
“The Air Force has taught me to be very adaptable and make do with the resources you have at hand,” he said. “That is one thing that has helped me a lot – the mindset of being adaptable is critical when you’re dealing with disasters that impact people’s lives.”
"We can always depend on A1C Carrillo to lend a helping hand and selflessly dedicate his time to help others in need,” said 1st Lt. Adrian Waters, 707th CS. “His caring personality and his energetic spirit are an undeniable asset to us."
Carrillo encourages other Airmen to get out and volunteer to make a difference in their communities.
“Airmen are always looking for volunteer opportunities,” said Carrillo. “This is a great impact that you can see directly. You can see the aide and how it affects people. The American Red Cross has various volunteer opportunities such as volunteer management, disaster services, disaster action team, disaster preparedness presenter and public affairs. Explore the options and find something you are passionate about.”