Team 916 answers calling from higher power

  • Published
  • By Ashley Snipes
  • 916th Air Refueling Wing

When flood waters rise, the community of Goldsboro can count on their friends at the 916th Air Refueling Wing to lend a hand and protect what matters.

On February 19, Senior Master Sgt. Ian Gardner received a call from a troubled former 916th member who needed immediate assistance. Pastor Les Caper, who retired from the wing in 2006 after serving as a survival equipment technician with Gardner, needed help fortifying his church, St Joseph’s Free Will Baptist Church, against potential flooding.

“They were worried they wouldn’t have enough people to help at that last minute on a cold rainy day,” said Gardner. “He reached out to me and said ‘can you help?’”

Without a breath of hesitation, Gardner said yes and made a few phone calls for support. Senior Master Sgt. Daniel Drake, 916 Force Support Squadron sustainment section chief; Senior Master Sgt. Brian Nash from 916 Security Forces Squadron; Master Sgt. Kevin Merrill, 916th ARW Emergency Manager; and Gardner’s son Todd, all responded as quickly as Gardner had, and proceeded to meet at St Joseph’s Free Will Baptist Church about 20 minutes northwest of the base.

According to Caper, the church had tried to be as prepared as possible after the building was flooded during Hurricane Matthew in 2016. This extra ounce of preparation meant the sand bags were already filled and just needed to be moved into place.

“We made a chain of people and started grabbing bags and passing them to the last person who loaded them on a trailer,” said Gardner.

The crew pulled the trailer around the building to block off every door, window and crawl space.

“We put plastic down first and then stacked up sandbags,” elaborated Gardner.

Team 916 and four other members from the church were able to secure four doors, four windows, and three crawl space entry ways in about an hour.

“This was because we had great help from the other gentlemen that came out with Ian,” said Caper. “They knew exactly what to do and how to get it done!”

As a thank you for the hard work, Caper provided lunch for the Reserve Citizen Airman who answered his call for service.

“The meal today was our small way of saying thank you for the selfless service and compassion these men gave to us.”