Michigan Airmen Assist Orphanages During African Deployment

  • Published
  • By TSgt. Dan Heaton
  • 127th Public Affairs
Deployed to Ghana for a training mission, Airmen from the 127th Civil Engineering Squadron paid a visit and dropped off donations at an orphanage and a center that assists the children of women who have been rescued or have escaped from human traffickers.

"How can you not help but feel that you must do something for these children," said Major Tom Sierakowski, the officer in charge of the deployment.

The 127th CES is a part of the Michigan Air National Guard, based at Selfridge Air National Guard Base. The Citizen-Airmen of the Air National Guard generally work one weekend per month at the base and spend about two weeks on active duty. In addition, Guardsmen are always on-call in their role as America's modern-day Minutemen.

The 127th CES deployed to Accra, the capital city of Ghana, in west Africa, to work with the Ghana military to perform a major rehabilitation of a training building used by the Ghana air force. Anticipating the trip to Ghana, Sierakowski worked with the Flint, Mich., chapter of the Safari Club International, to bring two large bags of supplies to the organizations in Ghana. Once the 127th CES arrived in Ghana, the Airmen worked in conjunction with the U.S. Embassy to determine some of the needs of the orphanage and took up a collection to purchase items locally to support the organization.

Master Sgt. Lisha Lewis visited both of the facilities to learn their specific needs and to arrange the visit by the Michigan Airmen.

"Their list of needs ranged from flip-flops for the children to wear all the way up to a new vehicle," Lewis said.

Technical Sgt. Emory Sims, one of the Airmen who made the visit to help drop-off the donation, said visiting the orphanage was a reminder of the many things that Americans take for granted.

"It was just amazing to see 250 children all living in that one orphanage," said Sims. "The children were eager just to get to speak with an American."

The trip to Ghana was the first time many of the 127th Airman had ever visited Africa. During the 15-day journey, the Airmen enjoyed one day off in Africa and many took advantage of the day to visit Cape Coast Castle and the infamous "Door of No Return" where thousands of African slaves were loaded on to ships for the so-called "Middle Passage" journey to be used as slaves in the Americas. The castle recently added a new feature - a small commemorative plaque that recalls the 2009 visit to the castle by President Barack Obama and his family.

It is likely that more Michigan Guardsmen will be visiting Africa in the future. The Michigan National Guard recently began a partnership with Liberia, which borders Ghana, under the Partnership for Peace program, in which U.S. state National Guards partner with the military of emerging nations. Michigan has long enjoyed a partnership with Latvia, which will also continue. Ghana recently became a partner with North Dakota, which helped organize and worked with Michigan on the trip to Ghana.