Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif. -- For the past 124 years, the dedicated men and women of the American Red Cross have stood by the nations’ service members as well as its citizens in peacetime as well as times of war and disaster; providing relief to those in need at home and abroad since its inception in 1881.
This proud tradition, carried on by a mainly all-volunteer force, is still evident today aboard the Combat Center, with an American Red Cross station that serves the local base community with emergency communications, volunteer and educational opportunities for family members.
“Our main mission here at this station is to provide emergency communications for service members and their families,” said Lylah Seaton, station chairman. “Unlike the regular Red Cross chapters, we fall under the Armed Forces Emergency Services division so we can contact their loved ones in an emergency and they can make the appropriate arrangements like emergency leave. But it can also go from the service member to the family as well, though.”
Although the station is a part of the American Red Cross, it does not serve the traditional roles of their civilian chapter counterparts, said Seaton.
“We here on the base are a station, as opposed to a chapter out in town,” said Sylvia Sanchez, chairman of volunteers. “We do have a local chapter in Joshua Tree and they are in charge of conducting health and welfare classes such as babysitting, CPR and disaster training. But we only host those, the registration is still with the parent chapter.”
Like any section of the Red Cross, though, the Combat Center station is able to facilitate the transmittal of donations.
“We do accept donations through our station, they are passed up to our national headquarters; however, when someone donates to the American Red Cross they can specify what they want the money to go towards, such as the hurricane relief efforts or other disaster funds,” said Seaton.
Since Hurricanes Katrina and Rita struck the Gulf Coast, the station has seen a large influx of volunteers, said Sanchez.
“We have had a large number of volunteers coming into our office and asking to help as a result of the recent hurricanes,” said Sanchez. “When I started here, we had about two or three volunteers. At our last family day event alone we had 22 new volunteers sign up.”
“I guess [through] all of the bad some good came out of it,” she said.
Aside from its emergency services, the local station fulfils obligations all over the Combat Center with help from its volunteer corps, as well as provide access to programs for Department of Defense families.
“A program that we have going right now is to support unit family days, as well as deployments, predeployment briefs and homecomings for units,” said Sanchez. “Even if it’s Okinawa or to Iraq, we will have someone there to talk to families and let them know what we offer and that we will be there for them if they need us. It’s just our way of touching base with families and reassuring our goals to them.”
“For our station we have general volunteers and then volunteers who meet more specific needs like at the naval hospital,” said Seaton. “We have a lot of nurses volunteering with us because they want to keep up on there skills, but soon we will be having the professional volunteer program giving nurses, phlebotomists and other certified people the chance to practice their trade.”
In addition to volunteering options, the American Red Cross hosts programs sponsored by local chapters such as CPR training, babysitting, disaster preparedness and a program to get individuals certified as dental assistants.
“If you can put on a resume that you volunteered for the American Red Cross for a certain amount of time, it’s much more reputable because not only is our organization national but also international,” said Sanchez. “If you are a trained case worker that is another valuable asset because they are not only trained in what is essentially human resources, but also if you work in donation gathering than you have experiences in marketing and also publicity. I think that it’s all on a grander scale in that respect.”
Since the early days of the American Red Cross, members have faithfully traveled to areas of conflict with their military counterparts to better serve them and in modern times there is no exception.
“We only have one paid staff member and that is our assistant station manager, the rest are volunteers,” said Seaton. “Our managers rotate around quite a bit and they also deploy. Our current station assistant manager actually just returned from her deployment to Kuwait.”
The goal of the Red Cross is to transmit messages to their intended receivers in 12 to 24 hours in the U.S., and in 18 to 24 hours when overseas.
“We handle all types of messages, but births seem to travel a little bit faster,” said Seaton.
For more information, call the American Red Cross station here at 830-6685.