After a fire destroyed their lodging, AFAS helped a group of Airmen

Major Brenden Westin joined the Air Force out of a desire to continue his family’s legacy of service. He also wanted an interesting career outside of the regular business world. With 14 years of combined service in the Air Force and the Maine Air National Guard, Maj Westin found an interesting career, along with travel, hands-on work and career progression.

Never short on experiences, Maj Westin recalls supporting Exercise Amalgam Dart that started with a fire and led him to the Air Force Aid Society (AFAS) for the first time.

With 14 members from his unit and two active-duty Airmen from Dyess AFB, TX, Maj Westin went to Alberta, Canada in support of the Exercise Amalgam Dart. During the early morning hours of the first night of their stay, a fire erupted from a ceiling exhaust fan, destroying their lodging and all of the Airmen’s belongings. “Fortunately, nobody was injured,” says Maj Westin.

With the urgency of vacating the building, the Airmen left their rooms with only the clothes they had on – no wallets, cell phones, jackets or personal items. “Several were without shoes,” the Major recalls.

That morning, Maj Westin spoke with his Squadron Commander and First Sergeant to see how his team members could be provided with necessities. Referred to AFAS, Maj Westin spoke with Beatriz Swann, Operations Manager for the Society, giving her a list of what his team needed immediately.

Beatriz quickly processed the request and ensured that funds were wired just a few hours later. The team was then able to purchase clothes, eyeglasses, medications, cell phones, food and other necessities immediately.

“The support was amazing,” Maj Westin says. “Within the course of only a few hours, we had gone from bewilderment to being fed, clothed and ready to carry on our mission.” Thanks to the quick assistance from everyone involved, the team was able to complete the mission.

Maj Westin says that “all members had a memorable trip and ended up with a hard-won success.” In fact, since the completion of the mission, all of the Airmen involved received an Air Force Commendation Medal or Achievement Medal, and one of them has been submitted to receive the Airman’s Medal.

Maj Westin personally thanks everyone who helped his team through the difficult time, as well as all of the donors to AFAS. “The assistance really cannot be overstated,” Maj Westin stresses.

Incorporated in 1942, the Air Force Aid Society continues to meet the unique needs of Airmen and Guardians. AFAS works to support and enhance the USAF and USSF missions by providing emergency financial assistance, educational support, and community programs to Air Force and Space Force families. In 2020, AFAS provided over $12.5 million in assistance to more than 26,000 Air Force and Space Force families. Visit www.afas.org to learn more, apply for assistance, or to donate.