Phil Blong of Minot has a reputation for dependability as a volunteer. He admits he can't say no when asked to help out, but then, why would he want to?
"People call it volunteering but it's fun," he said. "I just like to have fun."
Blong is a lieutenant with the missile wing at Minot Air Force Base. He has volunteered with various programs on base and with the Mid-Dakota Chapter of the American Red Cross in Minot.
Jill Schramm •
Phil Blong attends a Red Cross disaster response training Feb. 18 in Minot.
"He's amazing," said Megan Kruger, volunteer coordinator with the Red Cross chapter. "He's one of those people who seeks out opportunities to do good."
Blong said he was influenced by his parents, who were volunteers in their community. It was only natural that he should volunteer, too, he said.
In college, volunteering provided a change of scenery and new opportunities that he hadn't tried before. After graduating and moving from ROTC into the Air Force in 2001, he found more volunteer opportunities in the military.
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At Minot AFB, Blong has volunteered through a tutoring program and is involved with Science Olympiad in the schools. He is a member of the Company Grade Officers Council, which is active in sponsoring events on base.
He began working with the Red Cross while he in college so it was an easy transition to helping out the Minot chapter.
"The big difference is the type of disasters you are responding to. I am from Florida. I did a lot of hurricane disaster relief, which I thought would be the most extreme, but coming up here has actually been an eye opener about the level of disasters you can have," he said.
He is waiting for a training course that fits his schedule so he can recertify in disaster response and help with local disasters. In the meantime, he volunteers at the Red Cross call center on a regular basis each month. The call center directs disaster victims to resources and conducts other related work for the Red Cross.
"He's a strong asset in the call center a very, very good communicator," Kruger said of Blong. "He's very fast on the computer, which is an asset."
Blong also is certified by the Red Cross to provide CPR and first-aid training. He has used his certification for the Red Cross and to train fitness center personnel on base.
He also volunteers with a program that provides free rides for airmen on weekend nights as part of a campaign against drinking and driving.
The program now involves each of the base units in a rotation so Blong's turn comes up about every three months. The site for the program is the Quentin Burdick Job Crops Center. Volunteers visit and mentor the students at the center while enjoying the recreational facilities between calls.
"I think it's cool when the community and base work together," Blong said.
Blong also is involved in the Minot community through a local runners club.
Running got into his blood after moving to North Dakota, he said. He's participated in the local Trestle Valley Marathon and has traveled to Ohio for an annual Air Force run and to the Boston Marathon last year.
He said cramps during the Boston race kept him from achieving the time that he would have liked but he did finish.
"It was just cool to see all the people there," he said.
Blong worked hard at training for the marathon because runners must meet a qualifying time to enter. But he said he prefers running just for the personal satisfaction.
For someone who had never lived away from a beach before coming to North Dakota 3-1/2 years ago, Blong quickly acclimated to land-locked North Dakota and its cold winters. He runs outdoors year-round.
"I have a personal aversion to running inside and haven't touched a treadmill in about four years," he said.
Blong credits his busy lifestyle to a couple of factors, including a conscious decision to stay occupied.
"I honestly am really, really lazy. I truly am. If something is not going on, I just lay and watch TV something that's meaningless," he said. To counteract that, he said, "I like to stay busy."
His other reason to stay active is a love for life. Whether working or playing, he makes sure he enjoys himself.
"I can't distinguish between what I do for fun and what I do," he said. "I have fun all the time. Sometimes it happens to be volunteering."