HomeNews

Pease Airman collects truckload of clothes for vulnerable Afghans

From left to right: Senior Airman Katlyn Legerstee, Staff Sgt. Jake Leonard, and Tech. Sgt. Cassandra Dowling, of the 157th Air Refueling Wing, inside the donation center at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, Sept. 17, 2021.

From left to right: Senior Airman Katlyn Legerstee, Staff Sgt. Jake Leonard, and Tech. Sgt. Cassandra Dowling, of the 157th Air Refueling Wing, inside the donation center at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, Sept. 17, 2021. Legerstee and Dowling drove from New Hampshire to New Jersey with a donation of clothing for vulnerable Afghan refugees temporarily living at the joint base. (Courtesy photo)

Senior Airman Katlyn Legerstee, left, and Tech. Sgt. Cassandra Dowling, right, both of the 157th Air Refueling Wing, stand in front of the pickup truck and trailer they loaded with clothing donated for vulnerable Afghans temporarily living at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, Sept. 17, 2021.

Senior Airman Katlyn Legerstee, left, and Tech. Sgt. Cassandra Dowling, right, both of the 157th Air Refueling Wing, stand in front of the pickup truck and trailer they loaded with clothing donated for vulnerable Afghans temporarily living at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, Sept. 17, 2021. Legerestee and Dowling drove the donations from New Hampshire to New Jersey. (Courtesy photo)

PEASE AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, N.H. --

Kids grow fast, leaving parents with bags and bins of too-small clothes filling space in attics and cellars.

This was the conversation Senior Airman Katlyn Legerstee, a 157th Air Refueling Wing military pay specialist, was having with another mom in late August, just as vulnerable Afghans were arriving at temporary housing facilities at several military bases around the U.S.

Pease deployed 11 members to support the arrivals at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, part of the Department of Defense’s response to a request for support from the Department of State.

Legerstee wanted to volunteer for the mission, known as Operation Allies Refuge, but her responsibilities as a full-time pay technician at the base meant she could not leave her day job. She saw the clothing conundrum as an opportunity to help anyway.

On her own time, she began reaching out to others in the community for support. Leveraging social media, personal connections, and the community at Pease, Legerstee asked for donations of clothing. While her own contributions started with baby clothes, donations of clothes and shoes for men, women and children soon poured in. Most of the donations came from members of the Pease community.

“I would tell people where I parked for the day and they would drop their donations off at my car,” said Legerstee, who noted she got out of work on more than one occasion to find bags of clothes piled in and around her car.

By mid-September, she had collected enough clothes to fill the bed of her father’s black Chevy Silverado and an 8-foot trailer owed behind it. In total, Legerstee estimated she collected nearly 100 bags of donated clothing.

On September 17, Legerstee climbed into the truck and made the six-hour trek to New Jersey. Tech. Sgt. Cassandra Dowling, another pay office Airman, accompanied her.

Dowling, who recently returned from a deployment to Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, left her deployed location just as refugees were arriving there and did not feel like she had really had a chance to help them. She said supporting Legerstee with the clothing donation was a small way she could contribute.

Upon arriving at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, Staff Sgt. Jake Leonard greeted them outside a brick warehouse-like building. The sound of children playing nearby filled the air. Leonard, a member of the 157th Air Refueling Wing who volunteered for the mission, was in charge of distributions for one of the refugee villages and helped Legerestee and Dowling unload their donation and then gave them a tour.

The three Pease Airmen never completed their tour of the village, as they soon encountered a group of Afghan children playing outside. They spent the remainder of their time interacting with the refugees.

“It was the sweetest thing to play and interact with them, and to see how resilient they were after such a traumatic situation,” said Dowling.

The one-day trip turned into an overnight stay in New Jersey, when their tour ended five hours later. Legerstee and Dowling left touched by the experience, which they called humbling and rewarding.

“I was really impressed with our members who are down there on orders,” said Legerstee. “Seeing their morale and that they are working really hard, sometimes 12 hours a day, seven days a week.”

USAF Comments Policy
If you wish to comment, use the text box below. AF reserves the right to modify this policy at any time.

This is a moderated forum. That means all comments will be reviewed before posting. In addition, we expect that participants will treat each other, as well as our agency and our employees, with respect. We will not post comments that contain abusive or vulgar language, spam, hate speech, personal attacks, violate EEO policy, are offensive to other or similar content. We will not post comments that are spam, are clearly "off topic", promote services or products, infringe copyright protected material, or contain any links that don't contribute to the discussion. Comments that make unsupported accusations will also not be posted. The AF and the AF alone will make a determination as to which comments will be posted. Any references to commercial entities, products, services, or other non-governmental organizations or individuals that remain on the site are provided solely for the information of individuals using this page. These references are not intended to reflect the opinion of the AF, DoD, the United States, or its officers or employees concerning the significance, priority, or importance to be given the referenced entity, product, service, or organization. Such references are not an official or personal endorsement of any product, person, or service, and may not be quoted or reproduced for the purpose of stating or implying AF endorsement or approval of any product, person, or service.

Any comments that report criminal activity including: suicidal behaviour or sexual assault will be reported to appropriate authorities including OSI. This forum is not:

  • This forum is not to be used to report criminal activity. If you have information for law enforcement, please contact OSI or your local police agency.
  • Do not submit unsolicited proposals, or other business ideas or inquiries to this forum. This site is not to be used for contracting or commercial business.
  • This forum may not be used for the submission of any claim, demand, informal or formal complaint, or any other form of legal and/or administrative notice or process, or for the exhaustion of any legal and/or administrative remedy.

AF does not guarantee or warrant that any information posted by individuals on this forum is correct, and disclaims any liability for any loss or damage resulting from reliance on any such information. AF may not be able to verify, does not warrant or guarantee, and assumes no liability for anything posted on this website by any other person. AF does not endorse, support or otherwise promote any private or commercial entity or the information, products or services contained on those websites that may be reached through links on our website.

Members of the media are asked to send questions to the public affairs through their normal channels and to refrain from submitting questions here as comments. Reporter questions will not be posted. We recognize that the Web is a 24/7 medium, and your comments are welcome at any time. However, given the need to manage federal resources, moderating and posting of comments will occur during regular business hours Monday through Friday. Comments submitted after hours or on weekends will be read and posted as early as possible; in most cases, this means the next business day.

For the benefit of robust discussion, we ask that comments remain "on-topic." This means that comments will be posted only as it relates to the topic that is being discussed within the blog post. The views expressed on the site by non-federal commentators do not necessarily reflect the official views of the AF or the Federal Government.

To protect your own privacy and the privacy of others, please do not include personally identifiable information, such as name, Social Security number, DoD ID number, OSI Case number, phone numbers or email addresses in the body of your comment. If you do voluntarily include personally identifiable information in your comment, such as your name, that comment may or may not be posted on the page. If your comment is posted, your name will not be redacted or removed. In no circumstances will comments be posted that contain Social Security numbers, DoD ID numbers, OSI case numbers, addresses, email address or phone numbers. The default for the posting of comments is "anonymous", but if you opt not to, any information, including your login name, may be displayed on our site.

Thank you for taking the time to read this comment policy. We encourage your participation in our discussion and look forward to an active exchange of ideas.