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Donation challenge supported four operations

Col. Randall Guthrie shows one of the young patients her picture on his digital camera.

Col. Randall Guthrie shows one of the young patients her picture on his digital camera. (Courtesy photo)

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Oklahoma -- A four month deployment for one 507th ARW reservist resulted in lifesaving operations for four Kyrgyzstan children. 

Col. Randall "Arlo" Guthrie, former 507th vice commander, deployed during January to serve as the vice commander for the 376th Air Expeditionary Wing. 

The 376th AEW is the lead refueling wing and premier mobility hub supporting operations in Afghanistan. The wing's mission includes strategic airlift operations, aerial refueling, combat airlift and airdrop, as well as aeromedical evacuation support when needed. Coalition aircraft supporting the mission include U.S. KC-135s and C-17s, Spanish C-130s, and French C-135FRs. 

Upon his arrival at Manas AB, Colonel Guthrie became aware of the 376th's long time support of the Manas Air Base Outreach Society which supports the Children's Heart Ward. 

The Children's Heart Ward is a facility that houses infants and children who need surgery to correct heart defects stemming from a combination of inherited genes and environmental factors, such as illness or mothers being exposed to chemicals during pregnancy. 

Two local doctors perform these surgeries free of charge. But an oxygenator -- a disposable piece of equipment that serves as the lung during cardiac surgery and is designed to expose the blood to oxygen and remove carbon dioxide -- is needed for each operation, and each costs $560. 

The Manas Air Base Outreach Society has addressed that need with its Children's Heart Ward focus group. Airmen raise money to pay for the oxygenators and sometimes for other types of surgeries so more children can be assisted. Since the foundation stood up, more than 100 surgeries have been supported, most by covering the cost of an oxygenator. 

By passing the hat and posing donation challenges, Colonel Guthrie helped raise $2,200 during his four-month rotation at Manas AB or enough money to support four operations. 

"Without these surgeries, the chance of survival is virtually zero. I simply challenged the wing staff to pass the hat. We had to do it unofficially since it was during, I believe, the official CFC fundraising time," he said. Guthrie added that later in his tour, "We visited the hospital to present a check and spend time with the children."