TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. --
Over 250 community members to include 29 Airmen from the First Term Airman Course at Travis Air Force Base volunteered to help renovate Anna Kyle Elementary School during a Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service in Fairfield, Jan. 21.
In recognition of Dr. King's legacy of service to all, Congress designated the federal holiday as the first and only national day of service in 1994. As a national day of service, known as a "day on, not a day off."
For FTAC Airmen, who are new to the base and the operational Air Force, the day was a chance to experience the positive relationship between the base and the local community for the first time.
"I think it's essential that we continue to build positive relationships with the community and maintain a good rapport," said Airman Richard Torres, FTAC student and member of the 60th Civil Engineering Squadron. “I'm just excited to be part of it and for future opportunities to volunteer for events like this and hopefully make a positive impact on the community while I'm here.”
The FTAC Airmen volunteer efforts left a positive impression on the community and the non-profit organization Rebuilding Together Solano County who organized the volunteer effort.
"The importance of Travis AFB and its commitment to the Solano County community has been a large part in helping RTSC as well as other non-profit organizations achieve their mission of helping those in need," said Elizabeth Hoffman, RTSC executive director. "In addition, Travis AFB personnel are exposed to local residents and communities through their volunteer work."
Having a solid relationship with Solano County neighbors helps Travis maintain its status as America's premier power projection platform.
"Without the local community, we wouldn't have the successful mission that we do in the 60th Air Mobility Wing," said Tech. Sgt. Nathaniel Hyder, FTAC team leader and 821st Contingency Response Squadron equipment technician. "The people, that's why we exist as an Air Force. It's to protect, and when we're not overseas protecting, we should be a part of the community and be there to serve and help them."
Dr. King recognized the power of service to strengthen communities and achieve common goals. Through his words and examples, Dr. King challenged individuals to take action and lift up their neighbors and communities through service.
"Honoring his memory is very important," said Torres. "What better way to do it than to help children and a school in the local community? I think he would be proud of what we're doing here."
Volunteering also emphasizes the Air Force core value of service before self and allows the first term Airmen to see the importance of making a difference and positively representing the Air Force within their communities early in their military careers.
“We want to instill in our Airmen that being at Travis is being part of the community,” said Hyder. “You only get something out of your community if you're putting something into it. We try to teach them professionalism and it has a lot to do with the core values.”
According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, participation in the MLK Day of Service has grown each year as more Americans are inspired by Dr. King's legacy to help their communities and the holiday has become synonymous with service.
“He definitely inspires me to try to make a difference every day in our community," said Hyder.
"For me, honoring him here by helping this school means giving back into my community, and I hope it sheds a little honor on all the work he did."
The volunteer day wasn't a one-time event for Travis Airmen and FTAC classes.
There has been a long-standing relationship between Travis AFB and RTSC that started with the FTAC Gives Back initiative at the MLK Day event two years ago.
Since then, FTAC Airmen have completed 46 community support projects, with 29 of them through RTSC. This equals nearly 6,000 volunteer hours given back to Solano County.
Through their volunteer efforts, Travis Airmen are demonstrating how through service, anyone can make a difference.
This impact embodies the spirit of Dr. King's legacy, as he once said, "Everybody can be great, because everybody can serve."