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Citizens Helping Airmen at Key Field Air National Guard Base

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  • 186th Air Refueling Wing

‘Service Before Self’ is one of three tenants of the Air Force Core Values. There are two citizens who are not in the military, but are serving with their time and talents to help keep the men and women of the 186th Air Refueling Wing (ARW) at Key Field Air National Guard Base (ANGB) in Meridian, Mississippi, safe.    

Mrs. Donna Cleveland, who is the wife of Master Sgt. Lucas Cleveland with the 186th Maintenance Squadron, and Mrs. Louisette Smarada, mother-in-law of the 186th ARW Safety Officer, Lt. Col. Sam DeGeneres, have made more than 300 masks in the past few weeks for the Airmen at Key Field. 

In Decatur, Mississippi, Mrs. Cleveland, her mother, aunt and two daughters have worked steadily for weeks to make face masks and scrub hats for the local area.  They originally made them for healthcare and grocery workers. After that order was filled, Mrs. Cleveland reached out to Cody Perkins, 186th ARW Airman, Family and Readiness coordinator, to see if there was a need.   

With the implementation of the new safety guidance that the Department of Defense and Air Force issued, all individuals on military installations, property and facilities are now required to wear face masks when they cannot maintain six feet of distance in the workplace. 

“So far, we’ve sent over 200 masks to the base and are making that many more,” said Mrs. Cleveland.  “I feel like it’s an honor and I appreciate the military and their sacrifice for us. Making masks for them is just a tiny token of my appreciation.” 

Mrs. Smarada, who lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, felt the need to help out when the pandemic began, so she started sewing masks for her family and neighbors.  Lt. Col. DeGeneres knew that the Airmen at the base would be required to wear them, so he asked his mother-in-law to send a few to Key Field. 

“I was delighted to be able to supply them,” Mrs. Smarda said. “Like I told him, it really made me feel of service to the country in a small way.” 

In all, Mrs. Smarda has sewn around 100 masks for the Airmen at Key Field.  

These citizens emulate the same ‘Service Before Self’ core value that all Airmen are expected to live by. And although a seemingly small gesture, their act of kindness resonates outside of the local community. 

“We are extremely thankful to Mrs. Cleveland and Mrs. Smarada for their time and efforts to make face masks for our Airmen,” said Col. Ed Evans, 186th Air Refueling Wing commander.  “These ladies are making a difference, and are truly helping our Airmen continue their mission - healthy and well!” 

Since the pandemic began, the men and women of Key Field ANGB have provided support to the State of Mississippi and our nation by assisting at testing sites. There are two testing site teams made up of approximately 20 Airmen each, who are working alongside other Mississippi National Guard members from other units to support the State’s efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic.   

It’s citizens like Mrs. Cleveland and Mrs. Smarada whose seemingly small acts of kindness are making a large impact to help the Airmen of the 186th Air Refueling Wing continue with the mission of serving the community, state and nation. Their ‘Service Before Self’ actions are reflective of the same core values that Airmen uphold, “Integrity First, Service Before Self, and Excellence in All We Do!”