When Senior Airman Rachel Williams is not giving pilots and loadmasters the “Go no/go,” or clearance to proceed on a mission, she is helping save wildlife, like the red-tailed hawk she unexpectedly found near building 2240, last month.
“My supervisor, Senior Master Sgt. Taneisha Hardaway, asked if I would like to catch a baby hawk? Without hesitation, I jumped up and said yes,” said Williams. “One of the reasons Hardaway asked her, Williams said, is because William’s nickname, is Elmyra, after a popular cartoon character who is obsessed with animals. Everyone knows, anytime there is a lizard, a snake or any type of animal, I am the person to catch it — I just can’t keep my hands off animals.”
To the best of her knowledge, the young bird of prey had fallen 75-feet from its nest and flew into a barbed wire fence during an attempt to get back to its perch. Williams wanted to ensure the bird did not wander into the street and risk being hit by a passing vehicle, so she kept a watchfuleye on it under a nearby Eucalyptus tree.
Master Sgt. Eric Brasch, loadmaster, 729th Airlift Squadron, took notice and decided to inquire about what she was doing and ask if he could help.
Williams had already attempted to contact someone for help and was waiting for a return call, when Brasch remembered he and his wife were involved in a similar situation with another red-tailed hawk, six months earlier.
“My wife and I volunteer for our neighborhood crime-watch program in Menifee and while on patrol one night, we noticed some people hovering around an injured bird,” said Brasch. “Someone in the group had telephoned an organization called Project Wildlife and a representative came to retrieve the bird.”
Brasch got the number for the rescue organization from his wife and immediately made contact with Ken Dickson. It wasn’t too long after that call that Dickson and his wife, Anysia, arrived on scene to take custody of the hawk.
Anysia conducted the initial series ofchecks on the condition of the hawk, before taking it for transportation to Project Wildlife’s triage center
“The prognosis of the red-tailed hawk is great! Once stabilized, I sent the hawk to our triage center in San Diego, Calif., for a more thorough checkup to make sure I didn’t miss anything out of the ordinary,” she said. “There, the bird was given fluids and food and then transferred again, to a flight cage for continued rehabilitation.”
Anysia explained that the hawk was in the process of fledging, or becoming capable of flight, at the time it was injured in the barbed wire fence. When completely healed, returning the bird back to its old nest is not wise due to the possibility of it reinjuring itself in the same fence, so a new location was carefully being considered, she said.
Project Wildlife has been in existence since 1972. Although headquartered in San Diego, the Dicksons operate out of a satellite facility in Temecula, Calif., where they have volunteered for 13 years. They also triage larger wildlife such as raccoons and opossums. In addition, she assists Fund for Animals in Ramona, Calif., by providing care for animals including bobcats and mountain lions.
“There is a need for what we do here, there really is,” said Anysia. “I get people calling me on the phone, speaking for three hours, trying to find someone to help a with an injured baby bird. It is amazing how much people care. My husband and I are happy to be the ones people can call to lend assistance in these types of cases.
Williams recollected that every time a little birds falls from its nest in the atrium at building 2240, she is always the one who attempts to help, usually by putting it in a shady spot so its parent can continue to feed and nurture it. Ever since she was little, she has always tried to take care of every little bird or animal in need, she said.