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11K coats, blankets help Kyrgyz citizens stay 'Warm and Dry'

By Staff Sgt. Angela Ruiz , 376th Air Expeditionary Wing

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TRANSIT CENTER AT MANAS, Kyrgyzstan (March 24, 2012) — Over the course of three months, 311 service members here volunteered to support Operation Warm and Dry by distributing 11,789 coats and blankets to people in need across Kyrgyzstan.

When Operation Warm and Dry started in 2009, it was a small volunteer project where Airmen at the Transit Center donated from their own pockets. Today it has grown into much more.
Many organizations came together this year to support Operation Warm and Dry. The U.S. Embassy and Kyrgyz Republic government gave the Transit Center approval to execute the project. U.S. Central Command approved the Overseas Humanitarian, Disaster and Civic Aid request to fund the project with $300,000. U.S. Peace Corps volunteers and the Kyrgyz Ministry of Social Protection Workers advised and guided the Transit Center’s Theater Security Cooperation division to where needs were the greatest.

“This size of an operation doesn’t happen by one person. It’s a total team effort.” said Capt. Steve Martin, previous humanitarian assistant project officer stationed at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz.

There were seven phases of this year’s Operation Warm and Dry covering five regions at 69 different locations including schools, hospitals and orphanages. 
All 11,789 coats and blankets were purchased from 25 local Kyrgyz Republic vendors in an effort to support the local economy.

Volunteers traveled more than 6,000 miles total to deliver the new coats and blankets. On each trip Kyrgyz contractors were hired to transport the volunteers from the Transit Center to the distribution locations. The furthest distribution location was Jalal-Abad a two-day road-trip though mountainous terrain.

“To be able to go there and reach out to people the Transit Center has never interacted with before, makes me feel like we’re making an impact,” said Capt. Spencer Bowen, Theater Security Cooperation division humanitarian assistance project officer deployed from the University of Washington.

The 800 coats and blankets distributed in Jalal-Abad were manufactured by two non-profit organizations in Osh which employ blind and deaf citizens. 
Transit Center service members dedicated more than 4,000 hours during Operation Warm and Dry.

“I thought it would be a really good thing to do,” said Staff Sgt. Thomas Adkinson, 376th Expeditionary Force Support Squadron personnel support for contingency operations representative. “It just seemed like something genuinely meant to help people, and I wanted to be a part of that.” Adkinson is deployed here from Vance Air Force Base, Okla., volunteered for the Balykchy distribution.

More than 1,200 coats and blankets were given out in Balykchy.

Operation Warm and Dry began with a few Airmen hopeful to make a difference. Three years later, their small project blossomed to its full potential.