Wesley McMahan, American Red Cross Armed Forces and International Services regional program manager in the Central and South Texas region, works at the American Red Cross tent, Sept. 1, 2021, at Fort Bliss’ Doña Ana Complex in New Mexico | U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Brandy Herrmann, 24th Theater Public Affairs Support Element
FORT BLISS – Wesley McMahand is no stranger to public service. Currently, he serves as the American Red Cross Armed Forces and International Services regional program manager in the Central and South Texas region. This is the first, and only, job he’s had since leaving the U.S. Army.
McMahand graduated from the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, N.Y. in 2009. In his nearly seven years in the U.S. Army as an air defense artillery officer, he deployed to the Middle East twice and achieved the rank of Captain. He says while serving, he didn’t have much knowledge about the American Red Cross, however, he believes his service in the Army had influence on his decision to apply for the job he now holds.
“When I got out [of the Army] I knew I didn’t want a job that didn’t have meaning,” he said. “I kind of gravitated towards this job in particular, where you can make a difference in people’s lives, and that’s why I’ve stayed here so long”
Most days, McMahand oversees Red Cross messages for service members, assists Red Cross volunteers in the Fort Bliss area and provides resiliency training. Since Aug. 26, 2021, McMahand spends his days at the Red Cross tent at Fort Bliss’ Dona Ana Complex in New Mexico assisting Afghan evacuees contact their loved ones.
He says a key part of the current mission to help Afghan evacuees restore those links is the international phone service the Red Cross provides. This is the Red Cross’ ‘Restoring Family Links’ program.
According to the Red Cross website, this program helps reconnect loved ones when families are separated internationally as a result of conflict, disaster, migration or other humanitarian emergency. The website also states that “Restoring Family Links services are free and confidential. We work with you to search for and locate your family and loved ones.”
“We offer a way for the guests to make phone calls to family members back in Afghanistan,” McMahand said. “We have international calling, domestic calling and tablets for email and social media. We also have our own Wi-Fi system here and we’re reconnecting families through technology.”
McMahand says the Red Cross pays for every minute of international calling, and this mission began with 50,000 minutes. Since opening the tent on Aug. 26, the Red Cross has provided 218 international calls, which he estimates, is approximately 1,090 international minutes used so far. He also said 75 guests have made domestic calls and more than 350 guests have come in to use email or social media to contact their families.
McMahand assists the Red Cross volunteers by handing out cell phones and tablets so the Afghan evacuees can check in with those who did not come to the United States. He says he enjoys seeing the look on a guest’s face when they hear a familiar voice on the other end of the call.
“It brings me joy to see the guests contact their family members,” he stated. “Every time somebody makes a phone call they have a huge smile on their face. It makes what we’re doing here very impactful.”