Dover ‘mother’ takes Airman under wing

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Aaron J. Jenne
  • 436th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
The Central Delaware Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with the 436th Airlift Wing, developed the Adopt an Airman Program in November 2015.

This First State Community Partnership initiative began with the intent to provide a ‘home’ for Airmen during the holidays and to encourage them to part of the local community.

“This program was established to reach Airmen who did not have family members in the local area and create a sense of home within the community for Thanksgiving and the Holidays,” said Tech. Sgt. Craig Moore, 436th Force Support Squadron NCO in charge of career development. “The overall concept of the program is to aid new Airmen with their transition from civilian life to military culture. This program helps build morale, and minimizes stressors associated with holidays away from families.”

While the original program was focused around the holiday season, certain participants decided it could be much more.

“This program has something for everybody,” said Bettie Campbell, civic leader and Adopt-an-Airman ‘mother.’ “It’s not just about providing meals during the holidays. It’s about pairing Airmen with community members and families that have similar interests, hobbies and passions. I just really hope everyone can make the most out of their time here. There’s something for everybody if you’re just willing to look.”

Airman 1st Class Keshauna Reeves, 436th Logistics Readiness Squadron material management apprentice, attended her first meeting in September 2016, and according to Reeves, the program has had a significant impact on her.

Home for her meant family. Cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents and even a great-grandfather all lived within ten minutes of her family home. In fact, not a single family member lived farther away.

“My mom and I raised the kids together,” Reeves said. “She leans a lot on me, and I lean on her. We’re more like sisters than mom and daughter. We have a very tight relationship.”

Despite her close family ties, Reaves said she had to get away.

“Everyone [back home] seems to just get stuck, like they’re in quicksand,” Reeves said. “They’re all just so complacent; they don’t want to aspire to greater things. I wanted more for myself.”

She left her home in Florida to attend Basic Military Training and technical school at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas.

Going away from home for the first time was difficult for Reeves. Shortly after arriving at Dover AFB in July 2016, she became extremely homesick and she began regretting her decision to join the Air Force.

“When I first got here, I had a very closed mind,” Reeves said. “I didn’t want to be here, and I didn’t want to talk to anybody. I went to work and my dorm. If you didn’t catch me at the [dining facility], you really didn’t see me. I even told my [first sergeant], ‘I’m ready to go. I don’t like it here. I want to go home. I’m trying to figure out ways to get out [of the military].’”

A few weeks later, her first sergeant recommended she attend an Adopt an Airman meeting and her attitude turned around completely.

“I just knew instantly,” Reeves said of her first interaction with Campbell. “As soon as we started talking, I knew I liked Ms. Bettie. She was super cool and welcoming. She asked if any of us wanted to go to a picnic that Saturday. I wasn’t doing anything, so I said I’d go with her. We just clicked. She introduced me as her daughter, and I told everyone I was adopted about 36 hours ago. She joked, ‘she’s not even a full week old yet.’ We just had a lot of fun.”

Their relationship grew stronger as they began to spend more time together, watching movies, horseback riding and simply hanging out.

“I told her, ‘listen, you have a great opportunity to have a terrific career,’” Campbell said. “’You can travel. You’ll have opportunities you might never get anywhere else. Give it your all. Do your best. Get involved. Take as much as you can and you’ll be a shining star.’ That’s what she’s doing, and it’s getting noticed.”

Reeves became so moved by her budding relationship with her ‘mother’ that she began advocating the program.

Campbell said Reeves attended several First Term Airman Center briefs where she told new Airmen about the program. Reeves also began attending Airmen Committed to Excellence council meetings. Wherever she goes, she advocates the importance of this program.

“This has helped me a lot,” Reeves said. “Being young, and this being my first base, I was just having a hard time. I’m learning that it is what you make of it. You can’t meet new people sitting in your dorm, you’ve got to get out there and live. That’s what I tell everyone. There’s something in this program for everyone, if you’re willing to try.”

Campbell’s house isn’t only open to Reeves. In fact, she hosted about 15 Airmen this month. They enjoyed a bonfire, horseback riding and a home-cooked meal.

“To me, it’s not a program anymore; she’s my daughter,” Campbell said. “We get each other. I introduce her as my daughter and she calls me mom. It’s fun.”

Campbell said her goal for the program is to simply be there for her ‘kids.’

“This program is really important to me, because I know how much our military members sacrifice to serve us,” Campbell said. “They selflessly sacrifice their time and move away from their friends and families to keep us safe. They’re never in one place for more than a few years, so it’s important for us as a community to reach out and support them any way we can. I appreciate how much they give, so I want to do anything I can to give back. There are a lot of us in and around Dover that feel exactly the same way.”

For more information about the Adopt an Airman Program:
Airmen should contact Tech. Sgt. Craig Moore, 436th Force Support Squadron NCO in charge of career development, at (302) 677-4669, or Tech. Sgt. Danielle Mabry 436th FSS acting first sergeant at (302) 677-4207.
Community members should contact Cristal Brenneman, Central Delaware Chamber of Commerce executive assistant director of special events at (302) 734-7513.