Red Cross says farewell to JBB
On Aug. 1, the last American Red Cross team in Iraq, which was located at Joint Base Balad, closed its doors after opening June 2003.
To highlight the event, the ARC hosted a farewell ceremony and barbecue July 30 to celebrate more than eight years of operation.
“The ARC’s primary mission is to deliver emergency communications to deployed service members and civilians supporting the military 24/7, 365 days a year,” said Christina Arose, ARC station manager, who is deployed from U.S. Army Garrison Daegu, Republic of South Korea.
Since 2003, more than 300,000 emergency communications were delivered in Iraq; more than 75,000 of them were delivered here at JBB.
“We provide service members’ peace of mind because they know if an emergency happens back home, no matter what time of day, their family could get information to them,” said Arose, who considers the U.S. her hometown since she is from an Air Force family. “We also help reassure families back home because they know that a 24/7 link exists in times of emergency.”
In addition to providing emergency communications, the ARC helped service members in other ways.
“The secondary mission of the ARC is to enhance morale through hosting activities and providing other services,” said Arose.
Since November of 2007, more than 190,000 JBB personnel visited the ARC to make use of the Internet café, free toiletries, canteen, televisions and movie rental program.
Some of the events the ARC has hosted in the past include holiday parties, 5K runs, volleyball tournaments, making cards for service members, baking bread, celebrating birthdays and video game battles.
Clara Barton, who healed the wounded and brought supplies during the Civil War, founded the ARC in 1881.
In spirit of Barton, the ARC at JBB also cared for wounded warriors here.
“We would visit them twice a week and bring phone cards, clothes, toiletries and whatever they needed to make them more comfortable,” said Arose.
Helping with all these programs, were more than 500 volunteers who donated more than 10,000 hours of their personal time since 2009.
“Our volunteers have done everything, especially during JBB’s peak,” said Arose. “Their support has been wonderful.”
Another accomplishment of the ARC was the creation of the Legacy Room.
The Legacy Room was created in April of 2008 and since then hundreds of dads have been able to see the birth of their child via webcam.
“It was the team’s idea to provide a private room with good internet connection to watch their child’s delivery,” said Arose. “Since then, the room’s use has expanded to include life events such as graduations and weddings.”
Capt. Lee Crewson, 332nd Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron installation deployment officer, is one of many who have used the Legacy Room.
“When I arrived at JBB, I heard the announcement for the ARC and their services at “Right Start” so I sought them out since I had a baby on the way,” said Crewson, who is deployed from Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station, N.Y. “From day one the staff was very friendly and provided a great environment just to hang out, as the birth of a child is a big deal and not being able to be there weighed heavy on my heart and soul.”
On May 18, after 22 hours, Douglas Owen Crewson was born at 4:56 p.m. weighing 7 pounds, 15 ounces, and 21 inches long.
“The staff was very supportive and regularly checked in just to make sure I was doing okay and even offered me food,” said Crewson, who is a native of Buffalo, N.Y. “It was an incredible experience and given the distance from home, I really could not have asked for more.”
“After my experience, I started volunteering there to give back a little,” he continued. “I have been a big advocate ever since and take great pleasure in helping others get connected with their families. The ARC is, and has been, a fantastic organization for the airmen, soldiers and contractors of JBB and I am very sorry to see them leave, but I know they will do a great job and be appreciated wherever they go.”
Although the ARC will no longer be located at JBB, the office in Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, will continue to provide emergency communications for Iraq. The contact numbers are Defense Switched Network: 430-4444 or 430-4445, commercial: 011-965-2389-4444 or 011-965-2389-4445, cell phone: 011-965-9974-1200 and voice-over-internet protocol: 308-430-2079.
The ARC can also be contacted via phone at 877-272-7337, at www.redcross.org or at any local chapter.
Article by Senior Airman Amber Kelly-Herard, 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing