TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE — Afghan refugees will get warm clothes and food to help them through the winter thanks to an East Bay nonprofit organization that collected the goods and Travis airlifters who are packing and shipping them there.
“This is nice,” said Tech Sgt. Kai Bresser, whose squadron, the 9th Air Refueling Squadron, will carry the shipment on one of its KC-10 Extender air tankers to Charleston Air Force Base. “I am glad that we are able to help out.”
The shipment is approximately 36,000 pounds, and it includes winter clothing, shoes, computers, household items, 1,000 solar oven kits and 2,000 buckets of rice.
It was gathered by the nonprofit Trust in Education. The Denton Amendment Act allows Travis to package and ship the donated goods to where they are needed in refugee camps and villages in and around Kabul, according to Capt. Kelly Smith, operations officer with the 60th Aerial Port Squadron.
Lafayette attorney Budd MacKenzie founded Trust in Education in 2005 as a grassroots nonprofit organization to provide educational, economic and health care assistance to villages in Afghanistan.
MacKenzie got involved in 2003, when he cast about for something he, his friends and neighbors could do in the war in Afghanistan that would not be divisive.
He got involved with raising money to help Greg Mortenson build a school in the village of Lalander. MacKenzie and friends raised $60,000 for Mortenson’s Central Asia Institute.
MacKenzie decided to get even more involved and founded Trust in Education after deciding that the American people have a moral obligation to help the Afghan people to rebuild their lives and country after more than three decades of war.
“Ninety-nine percent of those people are victims of war,” said MacKenzie, who has traveled there twice a year since March 2005.
Since then, MacKenzie and his organization have worked with USAID and the military to package and ship humanitarian aid collected by Trust in Education to Afghanistan once a year.
“Those people are fantastic,” MacKenzie said, adding specific praise for Travis and its service members, saying “They are amazing, and they have been very accommodating for us.”
Smith and Bresser said they are more than glad to help, saying that providing humanitarian aid is a large part of what Air Mobility Command does.
For the aerial porters, its about six hours of work to put everything on 12 aircraft pallets for the mission, which is scheduled to depart on Friday morning.
Bresser said it’s an opportunity for the 9th Air Refueling Squadron’s aircrews to do a transport mission, which it has done less frequently since the C-17 Globemaster has come on duty.
“In the wars for hearts and minds, we have been very successful because it is all people to people,” MacKenzie said of what he describes as “an infinite need there.”
MacKenzie describes the need to help the Afghan people recover from the years of war as a TV channel “where you can’t change the dial.” He is very concerned that American aid to the Afghan people will drop off as American troops pull out of that country in 2014, the same drop-off in American aid that happened after the Soviets withdrew from Afghanistan.
“It has been the most rewarding thing that I have done in my life,” MacKenzie said.
Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ithompsondr.