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Pope volunteer assists base Airmen

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Mindy Bloem
  • 43rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs
He is wearing faded blue coveralls. He calmly instructs her to "pop the hood" and uses nimble fingers to carefully investigate the problem going on with her automobile. He soon spots the problem and immediately starts in on the solution. When he is done, he does not ask for money and is quick to rebuff any praise. He states he is simply happy to help. 

This behavior is not uncommon for Rich Burns, 440th Airlift Wing Safety Office and Auto Craft Center volunteer, who has been working on vehicles for many years. 

Mr. Burns gained much of his car repair "know-how" from experiences fixing automobiles at his dad's junkyard. 

He is grateful for the training, and does his best to make time to volunteer at the Auto Craft Center in order stay sharp, he said. 

He also offers free vehicle inspections every Wednesday from 1 to 4 p.m. through Aug. 27. This service is intended to help those traveling this summer on temporary duty assignments, changing duty stations, going on leave or those who just want their vehicle checked for safety purposes. 

"His kindness and willingness to help is one the things I respect most about him," said Michael Jellico, Auto Craft Center manager. 

Mr. Jellico and Mr. Burns go back a long way -- both have been friends since being stationed together at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., in 1984. Both were prior active duty and were assigned to Pope in 2001. Mr. Burns has since retired from active duty after 24 years but has volunteered at the Auto Craft Center for the past three-and-a-half years. 

"His willingness to help someone out, no matter what the problem, is one of his best qualities," Mr. Jellico said. "He has definitely helped me improve my automotive mechanical skills by 100 percent, continually showing me better ways to accomplish the task at hand." 

Even the wing commander has seen first hand how willing Mr. Burns is to help out his fellow servicemembers. 

"Mr. Burns is truly an asset to all of us here at Pope," said Col. John McDonald, 43rd Airlift Wing Commander. "He goes above and beyond to help, especially our young Airmen, with car maintenance and repairs. Many times the Airmen can't afford to go downtown to have someone look at their car to determine what the problem is; Mr. Burns does that for them free of charge. It is evident Mr. Burns is definitely a difference maker in ensuring Airmen of Team Pope are taken care of." 

Staff Sgt. Shameeka Cowan, 43rd Airlift Wing, will never forget how Mr. Burns helped her out with some stressful automotive situations. 

"Mr. Burns has helped me with numerous things on both of my vehicles," she said. "It doesn't take the check engine light coming on or something to happen for him to tell you something is going to need to be changed or for him to fix it for you. He is like one of those Care Bears or something. He always has a loving and caring heart and is willing to help out wherever he is needed. 

Mr. Burns said he understands what it is like to be an Airman who is on a tight budget and he wants to be able to use his gift to help people out of those types of situations.
"If Mr. Burns was not around, I would most likely be dealing with tow trucks, a lot of minutes on the phone to call someone to come help me out and a lot of time at the dealership." Sergeant Cowen said. 

"I admire his ability to always maintain a positive attitude and make people smile no matter what type of environment they are in. I also admire his being willing to help, no matter what he has going on," she added. "No matter what the situation is, you can always count on him to come through and have your back." 

Most recently, Mr. Burns helped out an Airman who had been having some automotive misfortune. The Airman had some body work that needed to be done. Mr. Burns took the time out of his hectic schedule to drive her over to his friend's body shop and get her the best possible deal. Then, after the body work was done, he personally repaired her air conditioner before she left for a long trip back home. When he was finished, he would not accept money and said it was just his way of being a blessing and helping out. 

"I respect him as a person, because he treats people how they want to be treated and sets time aside to share his knowledge with others and does not take anyone for granted," Sergeant Cowen said. "Safety is not just a job to him; it's a part of his life. He loves doing things that will benefit everyone. He is very motivated to help others and has dedicated most of his time to ensure friends and family members of Pope are being taken care of in the best possible way. I know everyone appreciates the things he has done. Time is one thing people can't get back, and I know that his time is very well spent." 

He has been referred to as a guardian angel, a hero, and even a care bear, but to Mr. Burns, it's all in a day's work and he is just simply "happy to help."