By Gordon Williams
When Eddie Ramos of DuPont WA volunteered for the American Red Cross in April of 2021, he wove another strand in the ties that bind the Red Cross and the nation’s military. A veteran of more than 20 years with the United States Air Force, Eddie is one of more than 60 men and women with military backgrounds who are volunteers with the Red Cross Northwest Region on Veterans Day 2021.
In fact, those ties with the military go back to the very dawn of the Red Cross — to its founding in 1881 by Civil War battlefield nurse Clara Barton. A major Red Cross function is Service to the Armed Forces (SAF), which provides assistance to members of the military, both active and retired, and to their families.
So, what does Eddie Ramos do as a Red Cross volunteer? How has his military service prepared him for the Red Cross, and how will his Red Cross service prepare him for a post-military career?
As a volunteer, Eddie works with the organization’s Volunteer Services function. Around 90 percent of all Red Cross workers are volunteers. His Red Cross title is “regional lead screener”. As he explains in his posting on the LinkedIn website, his job is to “lead and motivate a team of volunteer screeners who are responsible for guiding new and current volunteers into appropriate roles, thereby enhancing their experience with the American Red Cross.”
Volunteers come to the Red Cross from a variety of backgrounds — the military, police and fire departments, healthcare, the clergy and more. Once you volunteer, you will be directed, depending on your experience and interests, to one or another Red Cross function. It might be disaster response or healthcare or SAF. Amanda Hakin, Senior Engagement Specialist in the Red Cross Northwest Region, explains it is the screener’s job to find the best match between what the volunteer wants and what the Red Cross needs.
Eddie’s first contact with the Red Cross was at Joint Base Lewis McChord, the Army-Air Force base near Tacoma. He not only brought his military skills to the job, he also was well on his way to a post-military career in Human Resources (HR). That made him a natural for the Red Cross volunteer services function.
Eddie first joined the Air Force in 1997. He had grown up in modest circumstances in a manufacturing town in Connecticut, the youngest of seven children. An older sister joined the Air Force when she finished high school. Eddie admired her greatly, and says she was a huge influence in his joining the Air Force.
Most of Eddie’s years in service were spent with Air Force Special Warfare units. His specialty was Tactical Air Control Party (TACP), and its role is to provide air support to Army and Marine Units on the ground. “As a forward air controller, I helped manage the battlefield,” he says. He deployed twice to Kuwait and Iraq and three times to Afghanistan. His military decorations include the Bronze Star. He retired as Master Sergeant.
Eddie found the job both exciting and challenging, but as he moved up in rank, it became less hands-on and more managerial. In his last Air Force posting in San Antonio, his job was all managerial — helping train the next generation of air controllers. “I felt it was time to move on,” he says.
He did find the HR side of his role challenging enough to see it as the field he would follow when he retired. He started to prepare for that career while still on active duty by studying for a master’s degree in HR from American Military University. By next January, he will have earned a graduate degree as well as certification as an HR specialist.
Volunteering with the Red Cross has given him a chance to gain more HR experience, helping people who are looking to make a difference with their lives. He says that serving in the military at duty stations all over the world taught him how to establish rapport with people from very different backgrounds. “I bring a bit of worldly experience to the job,” he says.
As to how Ramos delivers for the Red Cross, Hakin says, “He is an exceptional volunteer, adding his own skillset to the job, while gaining the skills he will use in his human resources career. Not only was he promoted to screening team lead, but he also takes part in Service to the Armed Forces events.”