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AFAS gives Lakenheath Airman peace of mind

ROYAL AIR FORCE LAKENHEATH, England -- Tech. Sgt. Luis Crespo, an 18-year veteran, had a budget and a plan. 

The 48th Contracting Squadron NCO planned and saved for his two boys to come visit him in the U.K. for Christmas, planned and saved enough for holiday activities and presents, he had even put money aside to buy a car when his was totaled in an accident--but when his replacement car's engine broke down, so did his plan and his savings. He needed help.
 
"I thought I could just go to the bank and borrow the money, but because the bank turned me down, I thought, 'Oh my goodness, now what am I going to do, where am I going to go,'" he said. "I needed somewhere to give me money right now, not a whole lot, just enough to get me by." 

Sergeant Crespo needed transportation and his chain of command reminded him of help available through the Air Force Aid Society. The AFAS is the official charity of the Air Force. 

"It's strange because I've been in the military for a long time and I would always think of it [AFAS]off the top of my head if someone that I'm supervising needed help, but for myself, not so much," he said. "It wasn't until my leadership said, 'Hey there's other programs you can use, go talk to them [AFAS] and see if they can help you out,'" he said. 

According to Pauline Madison, 48th Mission Support Squadron Airman and Family Readiness Center AFAS officer, the AFAS offers interest free loans to help relieve Airmen and their families in financial distress. 

According to Ms. Madison, the AFAS can help with situations like car repair, car payment, basic living needs and emergency travel. They will not assist Airmen with financial situations such as late payments on credit cards, government travel card delinquencies, divorce expenses, legal disputes or taxes. 

"There has to be a real need, an emergency," she said. "If they put themselves in debt because of financial irresponsibility, they have to realize that they could be putting their career in jeopardy. Their security clearance relies on financial stability." 

Airmen can be referred by their chain of command or they can come in on their own initiative to receive assistance. 

"Once an Airman comes to us for assistance, we will work with them to fill out an application, verify their financial history and create a budget based on their current personal financial status," she said. 

Sergeant Crespo said that there were some stipulations as to what car he could purchase and he worked with Ms. Madison on a budget. 

"I had to do a budget because that's part of the deal," he said. "Going through the budget was helpful because I already had one in place, but not as detailed and not as accurate as what was recommended." 

After completing the process, Sergeant Crespo was able to buy a car. He said that Airmen should not think of AFAS as an organization that only helps those in dire financial need. 

"Don't look at it just because you're totally at the bottom of the barrel or you are in financial trouble," he said. "They are also there to help people like myself, because transportation is really important. Once you have that peace of mind, financial wise, you aren't stressing about that and you can go back to work and do the things you have to do." 

Airmen can donate to the AFAS, the Air Force Enlisted Village, the Air Force Village Foundation and the General and Mrs. Curtis E. LeMay Foundation during the Air Force Assistance Fund Campaign which runs through May 3. 

Lakenheath AFAF points of contact
Installation Project Officer, Capt. Benjamin Martin 
Alt Installation Project Officer, 2nd Lt. Kristine Baldwin 
Wing Staff Agencies, Senior Airman Stephanie Weaver 
48th Operations Group, Master Sgt. Darlene Curl 
48th Medical Group, Capt. Jana Weiner
48th Mission Support Group, 2nd Lt. Sarah Williford
48th Maintenance Group, 2nd Lt. Art Davidson

For more information on receiving assistance from the AFAS, contact the AFRC at 226-3847.