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Precious time-off filled by volunteering: Deployed members continue to serve after duty day is done

Members of the 180th who have volunteered at Balad Theater Hospital, Iraq, are from left to right, Tech. Sgt. Jeffrey Gill, Weapons Journeyman, Master Sgt. David Frost, Weapons Expediter, Tech. Sgt. Tom Gonzales, Weapons Journeyman, and Tech. Sgt. Joe Ray, Weapons Journeyman.

Members of the 180th who have volunteered at Balad Theater Hospital, Iraq, are from left to right, Tech. Sgt. Jeffrey Gill, Weapons Journeyman, Master Sgt. David Frost, Weapons Expediter, Tech. Sgt. Tom Gonzales, Weapons Journeyman, and Tech. Sgt. Joe Ray, Weapons Journeyman.

Aug/Sept 2009 -- While deployed to Balad Air Base during the Air Expeditionary Forces rotation last fall, a few volunteered their precious time to help others at the Balad Theater Hospital, Iraq. 

One of them, Master Sgt. Gardner Watkins, former 180th Flight Chief for the armament shop, was happy to help out. 

"Talking to the patients back and forth made the time go by faster for all of us" said Watkins, who works as a high school science teacher in Dublin, Ohio, in his civilian job. 

In addition to keeping the patients company, 180th volunteers of past and present deployments to Balad had done such things as stock crash carts, triage wounded and help change bedding. Some helped out as first responders in emergent care situations.
 
"We were trained to work on the landing pad, getting patients off the helicopter and into the emergency room," said Tech. Sgt. Tom Gonzales, Weapons Systems Journeyman. 

Gonzales, who is a detective for the Toledo Metro parks, was able to assist the hospital even further with the help of his co-workers, Marge Dembowski and Julie Streb, back home. 

"They sent boxes and boxes of stuffed animals that people had donated," said Gonzales. He was then able to give the toys to the hospital to be distributed to healing children. 

Master Sgt. Dave Frost, Weapons Expediter, also devoted his days off to helping out.
"After we assisted getting the patients off the helicopters, some of the doctors would even let you witness some of the ER proceedings," said Frost. "It was a very neat experience. I did whatever I could to help." 

Others who volunteered while in Balad included Master Sgt. Jimmy Cass, Repair and Reclaimation Shop Chief, Senior Airman Marisa Coleman and Master Sgt. Tony Ursell of weapons, Master Sgt. Pete Smith, Weapons Expediter, Tech. Sgt. Joe Ray, Weapons Journeyman, and Senior Airman Ian Thomas of Communications Flight. 

The 180th salutes all who have given their time to serve during past and present deployments.
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