Operation Bright Holiday to send 65 Airmen home for the holidays

By Col. (ret) West Anderson
Military Relations Chair

More than 10 years ago, it was observed morale often drops to its lowest level during the holiday season (Nov-Dec) for especially those brand new to the Air Force and who are usually experiencing their first time away from home. In addition to the first separation, new Airmen have limited finances to fund the cost of travel home for the holidays. The Barksdale Company Grade Officers Council (CGOC), led by the 2BW/CV, launched Operation Bright Holiday in 2008 in an effort to increase morale among young Airmen during their first duty station (i.e. first term Airmen).  The program’s goal was to raise funds through a base-wide social event and partnering with numerous base and local community organizations to orchestrate such an event.  Partner organizations included, Barksdale services orgs, the base Club, the Military Affairs Council (MAC), Bossier Chamber of Commerce and the First Sergeants Organizations. The Base-wide social event used for Barksdale’s OBH is an annual Oktoberfest held on the first Friday of October. Funds raised support virtually any form of travel to include air, rail, auto, and/or bus transportation.

This year, Operation Bright Holiday is sending 65 Airmen home for the holidays. Throughout the last 10 years, the program has sent more than 750 Airmen home for the holidays. The Company Grade Officers Council through Operation Bright Holiday will cover air, train, bus or vehicle travel costs for Airmen selected for this program.

Colonel (ret) West Anderson, a former 8AF Chief of Staff and 2d Bomb Wing vice commander, and now the Bossier Chamber Military Relations Committee Chair initiated OBH and Oktoberfest back in 2008 and continues to serve as the program mentor.

“We have sent Airman as far away as South Africa and the Philippines” Col Anderson said. Airmen selected to participate in OBH must be at Barksdale AFB as First-Term Airmen. Airmen applying for the program must demonstrate exceptional job performance. Higher priority is given to those Airmen with outstanding financial concerns which would prevent them from otherwise covering travel costs. OBH is not only a unique program within the AF, but nothing similar within the entire DoD exists.