ALTUS AIR FORCE BASE, Okla-- Airmen gather in a kitchen exchanging knowledge on cooking skills. Homemade chicken soup was boiling on the stovetop as they shared a sense of community and family. This is how Col. Judy Rattan, the 97th Medical Group commander at Altus Air Force Base, and her husband Chris Rattan, enjoy spending their evenings.
Even before their time serving in the military, Judy and Chris Rattan have been helping those in need whenever they can. From providing evening meals to churches, to volunteering at local blood drives, brotherhood, community and family are important ideals to the Rattans.
“In the military, there are lots of young Airmen that don’t get paid much and get thrown into strange places they’ve never been without a family,” said Chris Rattan. “Half of our children are in the military, and this is one of the influences on why we do what we do. When we can’t take care of our children because they're off doing their own thing, you want other people to take care of them. So we do this in return, and there are plenty of young Airmen out there that need to be taken care of.”
Judy Rattan explained she began helping those in need as soon as her Air Force career began in Officer Training School. Throughout her time in training, Judy Rattan would hold study groups and provide meals to Airmen that needed extra help and support.
Judy Rattan commissioned as an optometrist and, as her career progressed, she eventually met Chris Rattan while stationed at Tinker Air Force Base. Chris Rattan served 10 years in the Army as a tank platoon leader in Germany and a cavalry troop commander at Fort Knox, Kentucky.
As years progressed, Judy and Chris Rattan took every opportunity they had to help Airmen or community members in need, even across the world. Judy Rattan expressed how when she was deployed to Afghanistan, her husband and mother would send boxes full of supplies to those in need overseas.
“I had so many boxes coming in all the time, and every day people would ask me, ‘Can I get your mail?’,” she said. “One of my patients came through and looked kind of scruffy. He told me that the forward operating base he was at would do air drops with supplies, but the locals would come and take all the supplies, and they were out of so many simple items. I asked him what he needed and said to come back in eight days. My husband and mother held a drive at home and eight days later sent back boxes full of razors, soap, deodorant and socks.”
Chris Rattan stated after hearing what supplies were needed overseas, he and his family would host community drives for needed items. The Rattan family would send boxes full of everything from stuffed animals to eyeglasses to books for Airmen overseas.
“One year, we did a toy drive so that every kid in the Egyptian hospital got a toy,” said Judy Rattan. “There was an Egyptian hospital on base with which I volunteered to do eye exams on the local women and children. Some of them didn't know what to do with it because they have never had a toy before. It's something as simple as a toy that can change a life.”
After returning to the United States, Judy Rattan recalled how she and Chris Rattan started a ‘Cooking with the Commander’ class for younger Airmen while at Laughlin AFB, Texas. This class was designed to help teach Airmen basic cooking skills and recipes they can utilize in dorm kitchens.
“We would always go to the commissary and see these young Airmen with pizza rolls and Coca-Cola, so we got this idea to organize a cooking class to teach Airmen how to cook with the commander in the dorm kitchens,” said Chris Rattan. “We went home that night and bought 12 of everything for our class that Friday. She would teach them life skills, lessons and techniques that they will use for the rest of their lives. She held that class one Friday night a month, and we will still get kids sending pictures of meals that they made and the food prep they did for that week.”
Judy and Chris Rattan continue to help Airmen whenever possible, both in and out of her group. The Rattans explain how they hope serving as examples in caring for Airmen inspires others to do the same.
“We do some things as simple as going to the Airman Resilience Center here and making meals for Airmen just because kids like to eat,” said Judy Rattan. “We'll make food and it's nothing for me to feed 30 to 50 people. So we'll go home, he'll do the shopping, we'll do the prep work, and I'll do the cooking. We both bring it to the ARC and we serve the young Airmen there. They just love it. If we can help people in the slightest bit, it's like helping out our own kids. If more people did that, it brings our community together and lets Airmen know that people really do care about them.”