543 ISRG promotes volunteer culture
By Wayne Amann, Air Force ISR Agency Public Affairs
/ Published June 02, 2014
JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO - LACKLAND, Texas -- Back in the day, GIs were conditioned NOT to volunteer, for fear of having to do something distasteful. They would have to be "volun-told" to do something.
These days it's commonplace for military members to eagerly volunteer for a variety of reasons, foremost among them the core value of service before self in the community.
The Air Force Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Agency's 543rd ISR Group here exemplifies that core value in each of its four squadrons.
Col. Robert Krause, 543 ISRG commander, says volunteering is a self-motivating mindset among the men and women assigned to the 93rd Intelligence Squadron, 543rd Support Squadron, 668th Alteration and Installation Squadron and 743rd Intelligence Support Squadron.
"I push hard and my squadron commanders push hard, but not because these are mandatory events. No one is forced to participate," Krause said. "The atmosphere we try to create is to have folks believe this is part of their own responsibility. It's what they want to do. That's why you see the massive involvement across all four squadrons in various community events."
From Nov. 15, 2013 to March 17, 2014 the squadrons collectively participated in 37 community outreach projects.
Some of the more notable volunteer efforts during that period included 93rd IS Airmen contributing 40 hours to the San Antonio Parks and Recreation Department to help build a park in just one day. Alamo City District 3 council representative Ms. Rebecca Viagran said the project would benefit more than 100,000 local residents.
These Airmen also assisted in the Spay-Neuter-Inject-Project San Antonio. Their support contributed to the successful sterilization and vaccination of 294 dogs and cats, saving impoverished families approximately $88,000.
"The 93rd has been jumping on all kinds of things," Krause said. "Its Lightning Flight is special. They're new energized Airmen who want to contribute to the community and the Air Force any way they can. They're on a kind of casual status, just having completed their schoolhouse and waiting for another clearance level based on who we work with. Some folks are there a couple months so they'll get involved in the community."
Meanwhile the 543rd SPTS "Spartans" accepted the challenge of cleaning up San Antonio's Gilbert Garza Park. One hundred thirty-two volunteer hours later their "adopted" park sported seven re-painted picnic tables, two bridges and multiple culverts. For good measure they collected sixteen, 50 gallon bags of trash.
The "Spartans" efforts were lauded in the Winter 2013 Park Roots Newsletter, "A BIG thanks to the Lackland Air Force Base 543SPTS volunteers! They did an amazing job in volunteering for three days before the holiday break. They brought in 32 volunteers resulting in 96 volunteer hours, WOW!"
Since 1999 the 668th ALIS has taken its construction skills on the job to partner with Habitat for Humanity of San Antonio to improve living conditions for local low-income families. Most recently a team of 25 ALIS Airmen framed three homes and helped establish a 750-site community.
Earlier, 15 ALIS Airmen volunteered their culinary skills to support the Meals On Wheels Program by preparing 250 meals for elderly San Antonians, plus another 10 Airmen volunteered 40 hours to the San Antonio Food Bank to unload 8,000 pounds of food targeted for Thanksgiving.
Adoption was the buzzword recently for 743rd ISS volunteers. A 10-member team cleaned up a two-mile stretch of highway in support of the Texas Adopt-A-Highway initiative. They collected 24 bags of trash in the process.
Elsewhere, 743rd ISS Airmen spent two days supporting a local animal shelter by cleaning the 11,000 square foot facility for 30 dogs, plus they helped arrange animal adoptions which saved $320 in fees to rescue three animals.
Volunteering in the community has become such a major focus for the 543rd ISRG that included in the four squadrons' weekly updates to their group commander is a community service recap.
"It's very pleasing to me because I don't like to see folks waiting around to see how things develop," Krause said. "I want them out there aggressively looking for ways they can actively contribute."
Fueled by their "can do" attitude, the 543rd not only takes care of what's important to their parent organization and host installation, they're always thinking outside the gates.
"As part of Military City USA, we love the fact we can be visible players in what's happening locally," Krause said. "This is part of being an Airman, part of what we do. It's part of our responsibility to make the area we live in better, to make sure those who served before us are honored and to make this a better environment for the whole JBSA Team.