MINOT AIR FORCE BASE With many families rushing home for the holidays, it becomes one of the busiest time of year to travel. As the prices for gas and airline tickets skyrocket, it becomes harder and harder for Minot airmen to find a way home. However, this year, there were a select few airmen who earned a free ticket home thanks to Operation: Bright Holidays.
The Company Grade Officers Council got the idea to raise money to sponsor and surprise junior enlisted airmen by paying their way home for the holidays from 1st Lt. Benjamin Wood, the wing weather officer at Minot AFB, and council member, who saw this kind of assistance at previous assignments.
"They've been doing this every year at Barksdale for a while," said Wood. "So we figured we would give it a try at Minot."
Airman 1st Class Kevin Morgan, of the 5th Operations Support Squadron, is presented the Operation Bright Holidays award by Lt. Col. David Gordon, squadron commander, on behalf of the Company Grade Officer’s Council, Dec. 11, shown in this photo by Senior Airman Jose L. Hernandez-Domitilo. As the award recipient, Morgan was sponsored by the council for a trip home to his family. Operation Bright Holidays is a council-led program that was created to give airmen in need, an opportunity to go home for the holidays.
Once the program was authorized, the council took to the local businesses in downtown Minot, asking for monetary donations to support the cause. In just a month, the council raised $3,710 for the cause.
"It was very exciting, everyone in town was really supportive of the idea," said Wood. "Being able to send someone home for the holidays is awesome."
However, even after going door to door downtown, the council found that the most difficult part of the operation was choosing the airmen.
The council passed word of the program onto each squadron's first sergeants, who then passed it onto supervisors. The supervisors decided which of their airmen were most deserving.
Capt. Richard Landsverk, the Weather Flight commander at the base, and council member, explained how the nominations were not only based on top performers but on personal factors as well.
"Once we had all the applications, we racked and stacked them against each other," said Landsverk. "Then based on how much money we had raised, we determined how many airmen we could afford to send home."
The donations paid for three airmen; three round-trip plane tickets and two gas cards.
Landsverk and Wood joined the units and supervisors of each selected airman to present them with the exciting and surprising news.
With such support from base leadership, and the local community, the council intends to make Operation: Bright Holidays a holiday tradition at Minot AFB. By beginning to accept donations earlier in the year, the council hopes to send more airmen home each year.
Landsverk describes the process of beginning the program as hard work but worth every moment.
"All of our work paid off," said Wood. "It was worth it to see the look on their faces when they found out they were going home."