A 916 ARW Member Exhibits Service Before Self

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Mary McKnight

In September of 2018, Master Sgt. Kevin Merrill, 916th Air Refueling Wing emergency manager, took it upon himself to join a nonprofit organization  that donates their time and efforts to helping others restore their home after being damaged from natural disasters.

As the wing’s emergency manager Merrill takes part in recovery and planning in the event of a natural disaster, but does not have the opportunity to respond as much. By signing up for Team Rubicon, Merrill is able to utilize his emergency manger response skills and fulfill an Air Force core value, service before self.

As a, domestic and international, nonprofit organization whose primary mission is disaster response, Team Rubicon allocates their resources to the underserved or economically challenged communities.

In January of 2019 Merrill took on the responsibility of being the Raleigh City Administrator of Team Rubicon and part of his responsibility is to find unmet needs within the community.

“We’re looking for the hardest hit areas,” said Merrill. “Those associated with economic challenges. The ones we look at first are probably those with the greatest need, underserved communities.”

In the true spirit of the Air Force core values, Merrill places service before self, each time he steps out with Team Rubicon and finds unmet needs. By happy chance he found one close to home when a Facebook connection and member of the 916th shared her story via social media.

 “I happened to be on Facebook and came across a member of the wing that had an unmet need and I decided to contact her,” said Merrill. “We found out that it was a situation where insurance didn’t fully cover the need, the contractor didn’t provide the work they agreed to, and the family was out of a good bit of money.”

The member’s parents’ home was hit by Hurricane Florence back in 2018.

“Our parents’ home had water damage from hurricane Florence,” said Master Sgt. Akemi Cochran, 916 ARW functional manager. “We didn’t realize how bad it was until we began stripping the damaged area and redoing different rooms. During that time my mother was getting sick.”

Just when things seemed like they couldn’t get any worse, they did.

“My brother came home and discovered mold underneath the house,” said Cochran. “He scheduled the air quality people to come test the home and they determined it was uninhabitable”

Rather than give up on the situation, Cochran and her brother decided to move forward to repair their parents’ home.

“I was bragging about my brother on Facebook,” said Cochran. “We had insurance and contractor issues. After discovering the mold he was the main person taking care of the insurance, getting the third party adjustment, and checking supply cost for us to rebuild. I felt like without him we would not be moving forward, and that’s when Sgt. Merrill reached out.”

Cochran had no idea that sharing her story on social media would lead to outside assistance.

“This was right up our alley,” said Merrill. “We did a quick coordination on getting a team put together, it took about a week and a half and we managed to pull 15 to 20 people for the two days. In two days we got all the ceilings, all the floors, all the drywall, all the installation and all the AC duct work out of that house.”

Talk about giving back to the community.

Based on initial estimates, my brother was given, Master Sgt. Merrill saved us approximately $30,000 and possibly six months of our time, said Cochran.

Initially Cochran and her brother planned to take time off to gut the home themselves, instead, 2-3 Nov. Team Rubicon took it upon themselves to get it done for them.

“They were just remarkable people, it’s amazing how fast they work, and they know exactly what they are doing,” said Cochran.

Upon completion, Merrill expressed his sentiments.

“You can tell how much they appreciate what you’ve done,” said Merrill. “But you can’t truly project just how much it means to them. At the end of the day we always walk away from it like this is what we do. This is what people should do. It’s just what’s right.”

For inquiries about Team Rubicon go to www.teamrubiconusa.org or contact Master Sgt. Merrill at 919-971-4812.