Special Olympics volunteers have luggage detail in the bag

  • Published
  • By Maj. Candis Olmstead
  • JFHQ-ID Public Affairs
More than 200 members of the Idaho National Guard are working hard to support the 2009 Special Olympic World Winter Games this and next week. Air and Army Guard members are serving in the Treasure Valley, McCall and Sun Valley, doing everything from baggage handling and transportation, to supply distribution and asset protection.

One of the larger undertakings for Air National Guard volunteers in the local area is ensuring every piece of luggage that arrives in Boise for Special Olympics teams gets from the airport to the correct hotel and venue location. Tracking and moving five thousand bags for about 2,000 athletes, spectators and other visitors flying in from more than 100 countries is no small feat.

Senior Master Sgt. Gary Weiskircher, one of the NCOICs at the Delegation Welcome Center baggage handling area, said his team worked together to create the most efficient process possible. The goal was to be well organized, effective and error-free. They don't want to lose one bag, and so far, they're on the right track. They'll have to work the process again once the games are over and the athletes' bags and equipment have to get back to the airport.

Staff Sgt. Jason Swenson created a database to track every bag movement from when the travelers arrive to the time they leave.

"It's been tremendous," said Weiskircher. "I don't know how we could have done all of this without the database Jason made."

Based on information provided by the Special Olympics staff, bags are able to be tagged, scanned and then associated with a name in the database. That provides infor- mation about what hotel the traveler is staying at and what sport they are participating in, which indicates the venue location they will go to.

Through it all, each bag is handled by the team seven or eight times. "That's why this system with the bar codes is so essential to the operation," said Weiskircher.

"It's been going pretty smoothly," Swenson admits.

But they both agree that the most important piece of the process is the team of more than 50 volunteer Air Guard members who are working together seamlessly to get the job done with first-class style.