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First sergeant a key part of Operation Tomodachi support
YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan -- Master Sgt. Shanti Leiker, 374th Airlift Wing staff agencies first sergeant, poses for a photo in the judge advocate office library at Yokota Air Base, Japan, March 31, 2011. Through both her volunteer work and the support she gives her Airmen in wing staff agencies, MSgt Leiker plays a vital part here at Yokota and in Operation Tomodachi. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Samuel Morse)
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First sergeant a key part of Operation Tomodachi support

Posted 3/30/2011   Updated 3/30/2011 Email story   Print story


by Airman 1st Class Katrina R. Menchaca
374th Airlift Public Affairs

3/30/2011 - YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan -- -- Operation Tomodachi couldn't exist without the effort and dedication of servicemembers working to support it. In the same way, these same servicemembers would be hard pressed without a dedicated staff supporting them.

Master Sgt. Shanti Leiker is one of those people. As the acting first sergeant for wing staff agencies, she spends her days doing everything she can to help others.

"My favorite part of being a first sergeant is being able to help take care of people," she said. "If their minds are at ease, then they are able to perform the mission. If they're distracted with concerns and fears over rumors and what not, then they are not able to focus and get their portion of the job done."

A native of Wenatchee, Wash. and a 20-year Air Force veteran, Sergeant Leiker fills a difficult role as acting first sergeant, yet her Airmen have benefited from the fruits of her labor and sing her praises.

"Sergeant Leiker is amazing; she doesn't settle for the bare minimum," said Senior Airman Deirdre Wrona, 374th Airlift Wing knowledge operations manager. "I've never had a first sergeant who has gone out of their way to see how I'm doing until now. Life wouldn't be as easy this far away from home without someone like her."

Sergeant Leiker spends her days talking to members of the wing family and helping them out in any way she can. Since March 11, however, she has become an integral part of Operation Tomodachi.

Operation Tomodachi is a United States Armed Forces assistance operation to support Japan in disaster relief, following the 9.0-magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami that hit the coast of Japan.

After the earthquake, 11 civilian aircraft were diverted from local commercial airports. Soon after, Sergeant Leiker worked on the reception line for more than 500 passengers and aircrew. She later managed accountability and information data collection.

She has also continued her first sergeant duties, to include basic morale checks with people throughout the wing.

"I just have a lot of pride and appreciation for the things that we have," said Sergeant Leiker. "The thought that keeps me going is that we are doing this to help support our Japanese neighbors and hopefully offer them some relief, because they are still out there in the cold; they are still suffering through this.

"I didn't think outside of this base or this unit prior to this occurrence, so it has really opened my eyes to the environment and our impact on the Japanese people," she added.

To that end, Sergeant Leiker is the wing representative for "Toys for Tomodachi," a drive for people to donate small toys for Japanese children displaced and living in shelters.

Her active role in the 374th AW makes her a major asset to her work place and the Air Force as a whole.

"I can always rely on her to be willing to help whenever she is needed," said Capt. Sara Rathgeber, 374th Airlift Wing chief legal assistant. "She has a kind heart and an unbelievably outgoing personality."

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