49th SFS shows support of Candlelighters

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Anthony M. Ward
  • 49th Wing Public Affairs
Every year, Mayhill, N.M.'s Camp of the Tall Pines sponsors a week of camping, which includes horseback riding, arts and crafts, archery, and high-and-low rope challenge courses as part of the Candlelighters for Children with Cancer program.

This year, as a way of giving back to the community, Holloman AFB's 49th Security Forces Squadron's K-9 unit made an appearance at the camp, gave a demonstration of some of its military working dogs, and displayed various tactics used in real-world events to the Candlelighters.

"We really wanted this chance to come out here and assist these kids and their families," said Staff Sgt. Michael Haeberle, 49th SFS Military Working Dogs Section kennel master. "We wanted to give them an opportunity to do things they wouldn't normally be able to do and show them that they have an extra push from military people."

Though training with military working dogs is just another day at the office for members of security forces, to the Candlelighters, it's unlike anything they've ever seen.

"These kids are not exposed to many things other than school," said Derlene Gabaldon, Camp of the Tall Pines director. "I am so thrilled that Holloman offered to come out and bring the K-9 unit. This is something these kids will probably never see anything like again. These kids are grasping for new things and trying to live life as soon and as fast as they can. This is something they'll store in their minds for a long time."

For members of the 49th SFS, opportunities like this are not just about gaining recognition for volunteering, but the honor in giving back.

"It's not about awards for volunteering," said Senior Airman Rodney Lindsey, 49th SFS unit orientation monitor. "Being able to come up here and spend time with these kids is an award in itself, so when we get the opportunity to come up here and do something like this, we jump for it."

Along with offering once-in-a-lifetime opportunities and morale boosts for the Candlelighters, there are also many other benefits of security forces showcasing their skills.

"Bringing the dogs out to showcase to the public like this is kind of a side-by-side help for any kind of local jurisdiction law-enforcement agencies," said Lindsey. "It allows us to demonstrate the capabilities of the dogs, so that it acts as a deterrence, even if it is with children. It keeps them away from doing drugs and other bad things."

This is not the first time members of Team Holloman have interacted with Camp of the Tall Pines. For awhile the camp has acted as training grounds for various purposes for the base.

"For several months now, Holloman has been doing various types of training here," said Gabaldon. "The security forces squadron does training out on the grass and others from the base do resiliency training on the challenge courses. We're very proud to have them here. I think it's good for the Holloman men and women, and it's good for us, too."

Relations with community programs like this are a valuable asset for both the civilian and military communities, showing appreciation and support from both sides.

"I just feel that it's a real blessing that Camp of the Tall Pines is involved with Holloman Air Force Base," said Gabaldon. "I believe that our young men and women in the service do not get the recognition they deserve, and I am so proud to be able to give something back to them for the things they've given to our country."

"Not only do we go to war and defend our country, but we also go around and take care of those in our community," said Senior Airman Anthony Guy, 49th SFS community police patrolman. "It shows that we really care about what's going on in the community."