Red Cross brings care, messages to deployed troops

Story by Capt. Sarah Goodson
13th COSCOM Public Affairs Office

The Camp Anaconda Red Cross processes over 400-500 emergency messages for service members each week with a small staff of three full time Red Cross service members and two soldiers.

"Our primary purpose is getting the messages to our troops about emergencies at home as soon as possible," said Lynne Hammonds, incoming Red Cross team leader.

"We receive messages for service members, contractors, DOD Civilians, anybody on military orders and then we deliver them to their units," said Ms. Astor Black, the outgoing team chief who has just completed a six-month tour here.

The Anaconda Red Cross supports the 13th COSCOM, elements of 5th and 3rd Corps, and the Air Force Community. Its office receives an emergency message from a Red Cross Chapter in the United States or Germany for a service member and then provides the unit commander a verified message enabling them to quickly respond to the situation said Black.

"If a soldier member knows there is an emergency I would like them to initiate the message by contacting this office. said Hammonds. "We will know where the service member is and be able to contact his command a lot faster."

She adds that it also allows her office to ensure all the necessary information is in the message for the Command the first time.

If the family member is initiating the emergency message they need to have the correct mailing address with the current APO, the service member's full name, branch of service, and social security number, said Black.

"The most difficult thing I have faced here is the communications. It is very difficult to make phone calls and contact anyone," said Black. "We need to know when the commands move within the theater and leave the theater and points of contact for each specific unit," said Black.

She adds that they can be contacted over secure communications.The Red Cross locates the soldier's command and either emails the message over secure communications or delivers the message telephonically. Each message is given a Red Cross Message number and a date time group that can be used on an emergency leave form and can be later referenced if necessary, said Hammond.

An emergency message often communicates the critical illness or death of a family member or an immediate family member of the spouse or a person who stood in "loco parentis" for the service member.

"An emergency message can be any message with a time sensitive crisis that requires the soldier member's immediate response," said Hammond. Hammond adds that they also send out good messages when babies are born and spouses go into labor, but that they also unfortunately receive messages from parents who have not heard from their soldier for along time, and are looking for reassurance that they are all right.

Hammond, based in Iwa Kuni Japan, has over twenty-eight years of volunteer and full time service with the Red Cross, having served in Bosnia and Kosovo.

"We also have the best coffee on base. We are going to call the it the 'Seattle Coffee House," she said "We are trying to create a little bit of home."

The Red Cross office is located on New Jersey Avenue two buildings east of the Finance building with the replacement company. They are also the building just off the road that goes between DFAC 1 and the PX. Their telephone number is DNVT 558-1906/1904.

Black who is based in Anchorage Alaska and has over twenty-five years of volunteer and full time service with the Red Cross and has served in Bosnia and Uzbekistan concludes, "Visit your friendly Red Cross office, pick up some stationary, and while you are writing home enjoy the best coffee on LSA Anaconda."