Special Forces Soldiers Conduct Holiday Op for Filipino Kids
By By SGT Tim Meyer , Joint Special Operations Task Force - Philippines
/ Published December 28, 2006
CAMP BAUTISTA, Jolo Island, Republic of the Philippines -- A few days after Air Force Staff Sgt. Fred Grant settled into his job as the Special Operations Weather Noncommissioned Officer here, he made a cardboard donations box and an announcement.
The soft-spoken Mississippi native had a simple wish: to provide Christmas gifts for Filipino children who live on the camp here and whose parents are members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
"I thought it would be good for morale, and it supports the mission," said Staff Sgt.Grant. "That's why we're here--to help people."
Staff Sgt. Grant, who is deployed with the Joint Special Operations Task Force - Philippines, or JSOTF-P, first met the kids while jogging.
"They would come up and say hello, and you could tell they were sincere," he said. "I noticed that they didn't have a lot of toys, but they were having a good time."
Staff Sgt. Grant said he wanted to do something for the kids, and donations began to appear in the box. But then he was transferred to work at JSOTF-P headquarters in Zamboanga City.
In stepped Army SGT Brian Bochat, an administrative NCO from West Jordan, and Air Force Staff Sgt. Austin Stephens, an agent for the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, who kept tabs on the box as donations continued.
The generosity of JSOTF-P personnel based both here and at JSTOF-P headquarters in Zamboanga City resulted in more than $500 being raised in about six weeks. Other U.S. military members, such as Army SGT Danny Mitchell, a legal administrative assistant, and SPC Sean Defoer, a personnel administrative assistant, helped by coordinating the Jolo event and purchasing gifts.
The big day for the presentation of gifts to the children came on Dec. 14. While waiting for Santa to arrive, CSM Scott Morgan, the JSOTF-P senior enlisted member on Jolo, led the group in singing "Jingle Bells."
"This is the best thing we've done since we've been here," CSM Morgan said.
More than 100 children received gifts and a special visit from Santa Claus, played by Petty Officer 2nd Class Will Rioseco, a JSOTF-P member and gunner's mate with Seal Team Five from Coronado, CA.
According to Staff Sgt. Grant, donations were also encouraged by his civilian employer, Baker Hughes Drilling Fluids in New Orleans, and he has participated in many charity events over the years. Staff Sgt. Grant is a Texas Air National Guard weather forecaster for the 181st Weather Flight, Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base, Fort Worth, Texas.
SGT Bochat's home unit is the 1-19th Special Forces Group, or SFG, based in Camp Williams, Utah. Soldiers from the 1-19th are in the midst of a nine-month rotation in the Philippines.
Staff Sgt. Stephens, the AFOSI agent, is based out of Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii.
JSOTF-P draws military members from the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines and from both active-duty and reserve components. The unit's mission is to advise and assist their counterparts in the Armed Forces of the Philippines in counterterrorism activities.