3 minute readMilitary Support

What Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces Work Looks Like in Spain

You may be a long-time blood donor, a disaster volunteer or a proud CPR-trained citizen. But how much do you know about our work with United States Armed Forces across the world? For Red Cross Month, we have a Q&A with Jonathan Glenn, Service to the Armed Forces (SAF) Regional Program Manager at the Naval Station in Rota, Spain.

Tell us about your life as an SAF staff member in Spain

They say you’ll never work a day in your life if you love what you do; in that case, I haven’t worked in years. I have on the other hand traveled the world, met incredible people and had many life changing experiences as an American Red Cross SAF staff member.

Where I live, there are palm trees in my front yard and the Atlantic in the back. If that sounds like paradise, you’re right! However, scenery isn’t everything. What makes my life great is the privilege I have to serve the Active Duty Servicemembers and their families who live and work on Naval Station Rota, Spain.

Located on the southern coast of Spain (I can get to Africa faster than Madrid from where I am), I wake up energized every day to get to work and make a meaningful impact on my community. You may be surprised to learn that an overseas SAF station is essentially all the departments of your community’s Red Cross chapter in the States rolled into one, offering the full range of services with a fraction of the staff and resources with which to do it.

What’s one thing you’re currently working on?

We don’t shy away from a challenge, even when we are tossed a curve ball. In fact, this week started off with me making an announcement to my volunteer staff that I have been asked to deploy to our Red Cross office in Kuwait for a little over five months. I leave with just a few weeks of notice and will be there for the height of the heat, as if Spanish summers weren’t hot enough! Note to self: pick up sunscreen after work.

In all seriousness, I am excited to be following in the footsteps of many generations of Red Cross staff who have ventured to deployed sites to provide services to our Armed Forces throughout American history.

So what does preparing for a deployment look like?

There is a lot to do before a deployment and pace of office doesn’t slow down for you to get it done. Between trips to the clinic for blood draws, a hearing test and other fun activities required before I can leave for Kuwait, I have to meet with base leadership to plan a deployed ship’s homecoming ceremony. I’ll also need to build my PowerPoint for tonight’s Disaster Action Team orientation and I need to swing by the library this afternoon to snap some photos of our reading tutor volunteers who are helping young students with English reading comprehension.

What else happens at a Red Cross SAF installation?

I spend a lot of time away from my desk. Luckily my super talented Field Office Assistant, Emily, is there to help with an emergency message in the event of a family illness or death back home. We’re doing a beach clean-up project this Saturday. A health and safety lead volunteer teaches the Girl Scouts on base how to use a pillowcase to prepare for natural disaster in the scout hut. There is no shortage of opportunities to see my team in action around the base.

I’ll share some photos of other activities around the base.

Regional Program Manager Jon Glenn facilitates the Disaster Action Team orientation for a group of new Red Cross volunteers. The DAT will lead the Red Cross’s disaster education activity in the community, as well as respond to house fires on base.

Red Cross service to the armed forces disaster action team

The Rota Red Cross’s collaboration with MWR Library provides Red Cross volunteer tutors who are paired with youth 5-10 years old for the “Reading Buddies” program. The students read to the volunteers to practice their reading comprehension skills. Pictured here: Red Cross volunteers Gersen Reyes, Christian Ramilo, Mervin Chavez and program lead Emiley Murphy.

Red Cross service to the armed forces Reading Tutor

Naval Station Rota celebrates the arrival of ships when they return to port from deployment. The base leadership looks toward the Red Cross for volunteer support at the events and it all starts with planning meetings. This is me on the left (Regional Program Manager Jon Glenn) with Command Master Chief Terrell.

Red Cross service to the armed forces ship

Preparing the base community for earthquakes, tsunamis and other potential threats is a focus of the Red Cross at Naval Station Rota. Volunteers Scott Humphreys and Aaron Swanson man an informational table at a Red Cross sponsored safety event.

Red Cross service to the armed forces Disaster Preparedness

On National Acts of Kindness Day, Scrubby Bear handed out free hugs, roses and candies to passersby around base. Even busy Exchange Store manager Rick Nelson has time for a hug from Scrubby Bear (supported by volunteer Erik Monda).

Red Cross service to the armed forces hug

On National Acts of Kindness Day, Red Cross volunteers accompanied our office mascot, Scrubby Bear (supported by volunteer Raiza Cruz), around base. Scrubby took time to play games with single sailors at a base recreation hall.

Red Cross service to the armed forces Scrubby Bear Ping Pong

Thanks to the leadership provided by my Volunteer Partner, Jen Cunningham, and my Community Volunteer Leader, Heather Piedrahita, I know that the Red Cross Rota station will thrive while I am in Kuwait. I can’t wait to see what they have achieved when I return.