VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE -- It was a pretty typical day for Airman 1st Class Nicholas Biekert, 30th Space Communications Squadron client systems technician. He was at the gym playing basketball, when he received a call from his supervisor, Tech. Sgt. Adam Roush, NCO in charge of client systems, asking him to stop by his office. For Biekert, the phone call was likely to confirm one thing; he was probably going to deploy, since he was an alternate for five other Airmen in his unit.
“I was thinking, is it good or bad news?” recalled Biekert. “Then he told me ‘It depends on how you feel about the world, there’s a humanitarian effort for 30 days in Puerto Rico.’ Immediately, I was like sign me up. I only had a day or two to get out of here so I dropped everything and was on a plane.”
From Roush’s perspective, Biekert was a natural choice for the assignment.
“He was chosen because of his strong technical skills and his ability to build relationships regardless of environment or circumstance,” said Roush. “Biekert is our go-to Comm technician here at 30th SCS, and we knew he would excel in the rapidly changing and high pace environment during disaster recovery.”
A major reason for Biekert’s enthusiasm was a chance to do humanitarian work, something that has always been on his bucket list. The prospect of helping out in a region that was recently devastated by hurricane Maria was too strong to pass up. The only question was what his new role under the 331st Air Expeditionary Group would be when he arrived on the island and whether or not he would have that opportunity.
“I was going over to do communications which is what I do, and they already had three communications guys who were pretty good guys, but they didn’t have anybody for computers so that was a majority of my responsibilities. There were specific things that only I could fix which is why they called for a Client Systems Technician.”
Based out of a large convention center with more than 800 relief workers from military and civilian agencies, Biekert went to work seamlessly setting up network, Virtual Private Network, and accountability database connectivity where needed. In addition to his technical computer skills, this assignment also put into play his ability to build relationships as he tackled other tasks like arranging helicopter flights for remote location site visits, and building up a database to track accountability for more than 400 active duty assets throughout the Joint Operations Area. Labeled by his 331st AEG leadership as the ‘go-to-guy’ for solving unique issues, Biekert received an Air Force Achievement medal for his outstanding communications work.
Eventually, as the overall mission was drawing to a close Biekert was given some time off – time he planned to put to good use. In spite of all he had accomplished during his deployment, there was still something missing. With the help of a contact he met earlier in his deployment, he was able to join up with Salvation Army volunteers on his last few days. Acting as a Spanish translator, Biekert helped distribute 144lbs of supplies and 45K meals to disaster victims around the island, fulfilling his goal of helping with the humanitarian work.
“It was cool to be able to help out for those two days, although I wish I could have done more. I’ve always wanted to do humanitarian aid, so when I got this opportunity it was like, ‘It’s happened - I can cross this off my bucket list.”