by Maj. Larry van der Oord
14th Air Force Public Affairs
10/23/2013 - VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Whether
it's working with kids at the YMCA of Santa Maria, Calif., volunteering
at local schools or mentoring at-risk adolescents at juvenile hall,
Master Sgt. Jim Desgrange is committed to making a difference in the
lives of his community's youth.
Desgrange currently serves as non commissioned officer in charge within
the requirements branch of the 14th Air Force communications directorate
here at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. During the course of his
assignment, he has immersed himself into a number of programs aimed at
counseling young people in the area.
Early in his time at 14th AF, Desgrange forged a relationship with
Krista Delia who works as the lead volunteer coordinator for the Santa
Maria YMCA. Delia quickly introduced him to a number of opportunities
where he could get involved in the community.
"These programs are a great way to reach young guys and girls and let
them know what options they have available before they find it's too
late to make certain choices," said Desgrange.
In his work at the Santa Maria Juvenile Hall, Desgrange volunteers his
time to a program that helps redirect the lives of young people who have
found themselves in a bad way. He counsels kids on life-changing
choices and presents the Air Force, among other avenues, as a potential
career path for their future.
"We talk about careers in the Air Force, as well as the other choices
that are out there around the time people consider joining the
military," said Desgrange. "We try to help them understand that their
lives are up to them, and that life is dependent upon the choices you
make - both good and bad."
Oddly enough, Desgrange enjoys when he hears from corrections officers
at the Santa Maria Juvenile Hall about the kids that do not come back to
the program. That means those individuals are not repeat offenders.
Officers attribute many of those cases to the impact of mentorship from
Desgrange and the "Air Force crew" brought in to speak to the group.
"The uniform helps grab their attention," said Desgrange. "I have heard
of at least four kids actively seeking out a military recruiter. So I
will call that a win."
Desgrange also volunteers at at local high school and junior high career
days focused on providing advice and skills for job searches,
interviewing and resume writing.
"The school career days are great because I'm able to talk with students
looking for jobs and careers right out of high school," he said. "In
addition to sharing my personal experience about choosing the Air Force
as a career, I am able to listen to their questions and offer input on
whatever path they may be considering."
Desgrange's volunteer work has been highlighted multiple times in the
Santa Maria YMCA's monthly newsletter, and he is continually grateful
for the chance to serve his community.
"I get to talk with people from all different walks of life, listen to
their thoughts on the world and hear what they think of the future," he
said. "Sometimes it's funny, and other times it can be a dose of
reality. But, I find every event to be inspiring. Each one fuels me to
keep seeking out the next opportunity to get involved."
In addition to his daily duties managing all communication related
projects across the unit, Desgrange is very active around the base. He
has taught three NCO professional enhancement courses, served as the
14th AF lead for the 2012 Combined Federal Campaign and is an instructor
for the hard core fitness class at Vandenberg AFB Fitness Center.
His efforts have not gone unnoticed by 14th AF leadership.
"Jim is one of those rare Airmen that not only excels in his
professional endeavors, but also sets a shining example for how to live
out the Air Force Core Values in all aspects of his life," said Col.
Scott Merrell, 14th AF director of logistics, communications, and
security. "His continued work with the base and local community, in
particular, are what I think of when I hear the phrase, "service before
self," and it is also why I tend to think of Jim as a consummate servant