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By Senior Airman Angela Furry 31st Air Expeditionary Wing

AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy (USAFENS) -- Very few people can claim to have put more heart into their jobs than Tech. Sgt. Steven "Wheels" McDonald.

McDonald, a military reservist driver assigned to the 31st Transportation Squadron here, is also a civilian pastor who goes the extra mile to really take care of his "flock" of pilot passengers.

While driving aircrew members to and from missions, McDonald uses his own money to turn his truck into a mobile snack bar for his passengers. He stands at attention and salutes each time his officer passengers enter his truck. He also lets everyone know he's praying for them through a card he wrote called, "A Pilot's Prayer."

"I've never seen anyone so motivated and enthusiastic to do what some might consider a boring job," said an F-15E pilot from RAF Lakenheath, England. "He really makes you feel like a VIP, and gives you an added sense of duty and meaning. It's a subtle reminder of what we're fighting for."

McDonald was stationed at Aviano in 1984 and 1985 while on active duty. He returned to the local area in 1991 after separating from the military to do missionary work. He and his wife are co-pastors with the Aquila-Priscilla Ministries International, reaching out to Italians and immigrants with preaching and charity work.

But he's also an individual mobilization augmentee reservist in the airfield management career field.

"Each year I used to do as much active duty (service) as I could," said McDonald. "This particular year, airfield management had over 100-percent manning so I went looking around and asked transportation if they needed any help."

And so, just two weeks before Operation Allied Force kicked off, McDonald found himself on a 90-day tour driving aircrew members to and from their aircraft. But his efforts to serve his country go a lot further than just hauling his human cargo.

"People put candy on their desks, I put mine on my dashboard," McDonald explained. "At first, I started off small with just a little box full of candy. The pilots, who were really hungry after flying, were really excited about it. It made me feel good to see how candy made them feel good. So I looked for ways to get more creative and started buying stuff at the commissary that they don't have at the snack bar at the operations building."

McDonald paid for the snacks and beverages out of his own pocket before pilots realized what he was doing and started donating to help cover the costs, he said.

The other thing pilots appreciate about McDonald is the attention to customs and courtesies he brings to his job. He ensures the truck is there 15 minutes early so pilots never have to wait. As officers enter his vehicle, he stands at attention and renders a salute.

"Initially when I did this, it was only for colonels and above," said McDonald. "But now, I do it for all officers, out of respect and because they're all risking their lives over a country they're not familiar with." (USAFE News Service)


The Ajalon Report
Page 36