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Organizations turn ASF into ‘home-like atmosphere’

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Ryan Crane
  • 375th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs
Your plane lands after multiple flights and long hours. The door of the C-17 Globemaster opens and the cold air hits your face. It's the middle of winter in Southern Illinois and several men and women in uniforms escort you to a bus that will take you to your room. When the bus comes to a stop you look at the building and realize where you are.
"Not another hospital," you think to yourself.

But this isn't your usual hospital--this is the 375th Aeromedical Staging Flight, which houses 17 patient rooms specifically designed to meet the comfort as well as the medical needs of wounded warriors on their journey home.

The ASF, housed on the first floor of the 375th Medical Group clinic, receives more than 1,500 wounded patients from Iraq and Afghanistan every year. These patients are being transported back home, but many must spend the night in the ASF while waiting for the next flight out.

In 2005, the ASF recognized a need for a more relaxing atmosphere rather than a dreary "hospital-like" setting. So began the Adopt-a-Room/Area program.

Along with the patient rooms, the ASF has nine common areas which base agencies and local communities decorate and furnish with items to make the servicemembers feel at home.

First Lt. Sandra Arsenault, 375th ASF clinical nurse and lead on the Adopt-a-Room program said, "Our goal is to convert the ASF patient rooms from a 'hospital-like' setting into one that creates a relaxing, peaceful and home-like atmosphere for the servicemembers during their stay at the 375th Medical Group."

Each patient room or common area is decorated with a theme selected by the sponsoring group. For example, the patient room sponsored by the Wing Staff Agency has a classic rock theme complete with album covers on the walls and other musically inspired bedding and accessories.

Additionally, each room comes equipped with several quilts, the majority of which are handmade by volunteers. Since April, seven of these rooms have been redecorated and one is still in progress.

The rooms are updated every one to two years as resources and the availability of a room allows since updates often require a room to be taken out of commission for several days.

Although the ASF runs the program, they are quick to point out that they couldn't do it without the help of volunteers from around the base and local community.

Aside from the outpouring of support from Team Scott, local agencies such as the United Service Organization, American Red Cross, Daughters of the American Revolution, Hope for Heroes and the American Association of the United States Army also donate items to make the servicemembers feel like they are at home. These items may include paint, picture frames, furniture, entertainment games, calling cards and other little touches.

Volunteers are also on hand as patients arrive at the ASF to welcome them, lend a listening ear, or help get the patients items that aren't available at the ASF like their favorite restaurant meal or an item from The Exchange.

"This is one of the most rewarding jobs I've had since I've been in the military," said Thomas "Hump" Humphreys, a 375th MDG medical technician. "Helping our wounded troops who are coming home, giving them a hot meal--probably one of the first they've had in months--and just being a friendly face to make them feel at home is rewarding. Their appreciation makes it all worth it."

For more information or to volunteer, contact Lieutenant Arsenault or Capt. Macias Fryer at 256-5838.