With more than 280 Thunderbolts currently deployed around the world, Operation Thunderbox focuses on sending care packages to deployed Luke Air Force Base Airmen.
The program started around 2004 by a former Luke command chief, Scott Dearduff and his wife.
“They wanted to ensure Luke personnel received a taste of home and to let them know that Luke leadership was always thinking about its deployed Thunderbolts,” said Master Sgt. Evelyn Proctor, 56th Security Forces Squadron logistics superintendent.
Operation Thunderbox is a self-sustaining program. It relies solely on donated items and money from local charitable organizations and retired communities.
“Operation Thunderbox was originally created to support our deploying Thunderbolts,” said Chief Master Sgt. Rory Wicks, 56th Fighter Wing Command Chief. “Many of our teammates were being sent to austere locations without the ability to obtain some of the basic niceties that provide a sense of home. Operation Thunderbox also serves as an opportunity to thank them for their service as well as let each Airman know they are not forgotten.”
In the beginning, there were few organizations that donated to the program, which made it difficult, but every effort was made to provide packages to deployed Thunderbolts.
Evelyn Proctor and her husband, retired Master Sgt. Stewart Proctor, have been running the program for the last four years and it has grown to the point where every Thunderbolt gets at least two packages.
According to Evelyn Proctor, the program creates new, and enhances existing, relationships throughout Arizona.
“Operation Thunderbox is a pillar within our wing that supports not only our great men and women from all services that deploy to contingency operations,” Wicks said, “it also supports in the surrounding community families in need.”
The program also donates to Luke families, shelters and churches that assist homeless veterans throughout the Valley. It has provided Eagle Scouts and various Valley schools with community service opportunities.
“We also want to pass on to Luke personnel that when they are given a deployment tasking, they don’t need to buy travel toiletries; they can contact us to get a travel toiletry kit,” Evelyn Proctor said.
“The most important thing we’d like to get out to the Luke community is that we need regular updates from unit deployment managers about their deployed personnel,” she said. “The success of the program depends on the most up-to-date information.”
Operation Thunderbox is always looking for volunteers. Assistance is needed with packing and transporting care packages and moving to a new location.
Anyone interested can contact the unit first sergeant, or e-mail the Proctors directly at OTBox56@gmail.com.
By SENIOR AIRMAN DARLENE SELTMANN, 56th Fighter Wing Public Affairs