The airmen at Vance Air Force Base are well-known for their volunteer work in the Enid community, which makes rising to the status of Volunteer of the Year at the base a high mark to hit.
Tech. Sgt. Jeffrey Grant, an aerospace and operational physiology technician with the 71st Operations Support Squadron, achieved that honor for 2019, being named the 71st Flying Training Wing Volunteer of the Year.
Among other achievements, Grant was honored for volunteering more than 400 hours with the Enid Composite Squadron of the Civil Air Patrol (CAP).
A family history of service
Grant, originally from Sidney, N.Y., a town of about 4,000 people, said he was drawn to military service by a long line of family history.
He is the latest in five generations of military service, including his father, stepfather, uncles and grandfathers.
When it came time to select a branch of service, Grant said he was steered by his stepfather toward the Air Force for the quality of life. He enlisted out of high school, in 2006.
After basic and follow-on training, Grant was assigned to Laughlin Air Force Base, in Del Rio, Texas, then Andrews Air Force Base, in Camp Springs, Md., southeast of Washington, D.C.
When he was assigned to Vance and moved to Enid two years ago, Grant said it was “a little like coming home.”
“The small community and the relationship that the base has with the community is really special,” Grant said. “To be able to go from a larger community to a smaller community was actually really nice. Everyone knows everyone, and when you wave people wave back. It brought me home a little bit.”
An opportunity to give back
Grant didn’t join CAP until he came to Vance and saw the fledgling composite squadron as a way to the pass on some of the training and leadership development the Air Force had invested in him.
“It was an opportunity to give back to the kids,” Grant said. “The Air Force has invested a lot of time and energy into training me, and to provide the kids the opportunity to benefit from those leadership skills was exciting.”
Civil Air Patrol (CAP) was founded six days before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, on Dec. 1, 1941, to “mobilize the nation’s civilian aviation resources for national defense service,” according to the CAP website, and has since “evolved into a premier public service organization that still carries out emergency service missions when needed — in the air and on the ground.”
About 60,000 people nationwide volunteer their time in CAP, training to conduct search and rescue (SAR) missions for missing persons and downed aircraft, to provide disaster response, to promote aerospace and STEM education and teach leadership skills to youth.
Grant, who now serves as commander of the Enid Composite Squadron, said in a January interview the youth program offers cadets a lot of activities that are both fun and educational, including encampments, airplane and glider flights, SAR exercises and STEM-related projects.
“We want to provide them education, leadership and character development — all the tools they need to be successful later in life,” Grant said.
Grant stressed CAP gives youths an opportunity to begin learning some of those lessons, and the discipline that comes with them, early in life.
“I think the biggest message I can convey is the more you invest up-front in your future, the more it pays dividends later in life,” Grant said. “If I had known about CAP when I was younger, I would have joined.”
Making a difference
Whether it’s volunteering with CAP, helping coordinate the Senior NCO induction ceremony or annual awards ceremony at Vance or in his previous volunteer work with aviation day at local schools or at a soup kitchen in Washington, D.C., Grant said volunteering is a way for him to say thank you to the community for supporting him and his peers in the military.
“It gives back to the community and lets them know not only do we serve them abroad but we serve them at home,” Grant said. “Obviously, growing up in a military family, I have been fortunate, and with the traditions and the training I’ve received I want to make a difference in the communities I live in and serve.”
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