Returning the favor with Task Force-Holloman

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Kenneth Boyton
  • Task Force-Holloman Public Affairs

Inside of a long, half-domed tent, a man in an Air Force uniform is speaking with three elderly men. The three men are waiting for non-urgent medical care, and speaking to each other in their Afghan native tongue, Pashto.

The uniformed interpreter engaged in the conversation when suddenly, it got silent.

“One of the men looked to the others and started tearing up,” said Tech. Sgt. Steven Toma, Task Force-Holloman interpreter deployed from Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas. “He said to them, ‘I can’t remember the last time I was in an office setting and wasn’t hearing loud explosions or gunfire, I feel safe here,’ and they were all genuinely thankful. I’m thankful that I could be here to help them.”

Toma volunteered to join TF-H as soon as he heard that Afghan evacuees were coming to Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico. His background makes him feels connected to the mission on a personal level.

“My family immigrated to the U.S. from Iraq in 1991 after Operation Desert Storm,” Toma said. “My dad was an interpreter for the Americans and after the war ended, he knew the family would be targeted for helping them out.”

The U.S. took his valid concerns to heart, and flew the entire family out of Iraq and into Turkey where Toma was born. 30 days later, the family settled down in Chicago, Illinois.

“My family is very patriotic, because we’re thankful of all the opportunities and the second chance that we were given here,” said Toma. “My older brother was a Marine, and I decided to join the Air Force. I became a linguist because of my dad’s situation.”

Toma is now using his skills to help Afghan evacuees coming into the country.

“There’s a lot of thankfulness,” Toma said. “They come up to me saying that we Americans are full of love, we’re playing with the kids and we’re helping them all out. They’re genuinely thankful, and I’m so happy to be here with them.”