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AFAF helps 388th FW Airmen

HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah -- He had only deployed for a little more than a month at Balad Air Base, Iraq, when Senior Master Sgt. Steven Hoyt, 729th superintendent of the networks systems flight, received a call that his wife was found unconscious in the backyard. He knew he had to act fast.

His first sergeant called the Air Force Assistance Fund for help and within 24 hours, assistance was on the way. Sergeant Hoyt's sisters received two plane tickets from Illinois to take care of family

"They kicked in so quickly. I am impressed that they worked so fast and that they could be there for us in an event that something else could have happened," said Sergeant Hoyt. "I was relieved and I didn't have to make any arrangements. It took a huge weight off my shoulders."

Senior Airman Amber Couvilier, 729th surveillance technician, has also received fast assistance from the fund. Her brother was killed in a car accident in 2004. She was unable to get home due to financial reasons but reached out for assistance. "My mother called me at 4:30 a.m. to tell me the bad news and I had my plane ticket the next day from the AFAF," she said.

The AFAF is dedicated to helping Air Force members in emergency situations by providing assistance to them and their families, sponsoring educational assistance programs and offering a variety of base community enhancement programs that impact family welfare.

"I have regularly contributed even though I have never had a personal claim to get any benefits," said Sergeant Hoyt. "It was nice to know that when I needed them that they were actually there. It reaffirmed my faith in the system."

Airman Couvilier restated the same belief as Sergeant Hoyt. "I feel it is a humongous help toward all Airmen in need of assistance. It's like one less thing that you have to worry about when everything else is just crazy," she said

The 388th Fighter Wing has a goal of donating at least $33,985, which is the same as last year. "Last year we had great participation and we expect to collect even more contributions this year," said 1st Lt. Kirk Huntsman, 388th FW AFAF point of contact. The fighter wing makes up nearly half of the $75,000 Hill AFB goal. The target is to have at least a 50 percent participation rate in the wing.

In 2005, total direct assistance to Air Force members and families totaled $21.6 million. $7.1 million went to education programs including grants and assistance with college loans, and $2.5 million went to community enhancement programs like donating money to families where they received more than 84,000 hours of child care last year.

The campaign started March 20 and ends April 28.

The fighter wing plans on reaching its goals with the help of individual squadron representatives. "Each squadron has a representative. It is critical that we make 100 percent face-to-face contact with the entire wing and give each member an opportunity to participate," said Lieutenant Huntsman.

People can donate through cash, check or payroll deduction.

This year's theme is "Commitment to Caring," and Sergeant Hoyt found out how caring the AF can be to him. "This program goes to show that the Air Force is really a family and not just an organization."