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Air Force Assistance Fund 2024 Campaign kicks off at Youngstown Air Reserve Station

  • Published
  • By Eric M. White
  • 910th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

In the late 1980s, Richard Elsbury, an active duty enlisted member of the U.S. Air Force, was on a transatlantic flight to Misawa Air Base, Japan, for his new assignment when he got the call. In-flight phone calls were rare, so Elsbury knew something was wrong when the pilot asked him to report to the flight deck. His mother had been sick with cancer, and they knew it was terminal, but they weren’t given a life expectancy. Her health had rapidly deteriorated and she had succumbed to the disease. Elsbury finished his flight under the weight of fresh grief and arrived at his new duty station, half a world away, with one question on his mind: “How do I get home to my family?”

That’s where the Air Force Aid Society stepped in.

The charity, organized under the Air Force Assistance Fund, provides a platform for Airmen to help fellow Airmen through donations. The organization gave Elsbury a $10,000 grant to pay his way home, including ground transport, airfare and lodging, so that he could be with his family while navigating their loss. Without this grant, Elsbury is not sure how or if he could have made it home to bury his mother.

Fast-forwarding through a storied academic and federal civilian career, Elsbury is now the new director of Military and Family Readiness at Youngstown Air Reserve Station, Ohio, where he works to ensure the well-being of 910th Airlift Wing Airmen and their families. He knows how much a bit of assistance can help a service member in need, and that knowledge compels him to find and implement creative answers to challenges that his installation’s members face. This includes championing the Air Force Assistance Fund.

The 2024 Air Force Assistance Fund Campaign kicks off on March 11 for the 910th Airlift Wing. The program was expanded to Air Force Reservists, regardless of their duty status, in 2021. This year’s campaign is the first at Youngstown Air Reserve Station and aims to raise $19,187.

The Air Force Assistance Fund supports four charities. The Air Force Enlisted Village helps supply housing to surviving spouses of retired enlisted Air Force members. Air Force Villages Charitable Foundation helps care for widowed spouses of retired Air Force officers by providing housing solutions. The General and Mrs. Curtis E. LeMay Foundation provides financial assistance to widows of Air Force retirees.

Of the four charities, the Air Force Aid Society is likely best-known among Air Force Reservists. Founded by General Henry H. “Hap” Arnold in 1942, the Air Force Aid Society is funded by Airmen, for Airmen, and provides emergency financial assistance and on-base community programs.

“The program is geared toward emergency situations that you have no control of,” said Elsbury. “Air Force Aid usually evaluates the situation and then they’re the ones who make the decision of a loan or a grant.”

Elsbury said that Airmen can apply for assistance directly through the Air Force Aid Society. Military and family readiness is not notified when Airmen apply for or receive assistance, although they are provided general amounts of assistance given. Alternatively, Elsbury encourages Airmen in need to visit military and family readiness to begin the process. Not only can Elsbury and his team walk members through the Air Force Aid Society assistance application process, but they can also provide information on other resources that may be available.

“We never promise that you’re going to get a grant,” said Elsbury. “Nine times out of ten it’s going to be a loan.”

Elsbury knows his way around the application process. He has helped countless Airmen and earned the Air Force Assistance Aid Case Manager of the Year award four times.

“So somebody comes in and they say they have a need,” said Elsbury, “they help with things that are dire needs. Utilities, they don’t want those to be shut off. Food, you have to have food in the house. You have to have a roof over your head, so your rent or your mortgage. Things like your car payment, your car broke down, or somebody in your family is dying and you need to fly back.”

During his first Unit Training Assembly in his new role, Elsbury has already helped three 910th Airlift Wing members apply for Air Force Assistance Fund aid.

Members who receive a grant or loan from the Air Force Aid Society have the solace of knowing it was their fellow 910th Airlift Wing Airmen who made it possible. Members who donate gain the satisfaction that their gift will directly benefit their fellow Airmen with whom they serve.

Donations can be made by visiting the Air Force Assistance Fund website at and selecting Donate Now. Donors can select which installation they would like their donations to benefit or how their gift should be divided between the four charitable organizations.