MINOT AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. --
A three-legged, grey-haired, feline greets members and watches for tardy Airmen as she lounges in sunspots in the long 5th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron hallway.
1st Lt. Buffe (buh-fee) Stratofortress Grey, the 5th AMXS mascot, is more than just a cat. She assists Airmen by improving their overall mental and social fitness.
Buffe was found at a privately owned animal rescue shelter in Minot N.D., where several 5th AMXS Airmen volunteered on Oct. 14, 2014.
The Airmen grew attached to Buffe and introduced her to Lt. Col. Randy Schwinler, 5th AMXS commander. After Schwinler carefully considered the process of caring for an animal at the squadron, Buffe was adopted into the family.
“She’s family, just like any other member of our 5th AMXS,” said Schwinler. “She is valued, treated with respect and dignity, and we’re thankful to have her.”
According to drafted and approved 5th AMXS operating instructions, some of Buffe’s roles and responsibilities are to serve as the 5th AMXS emissary and provide increased morale and esprit-de-corps for all unit members.
“There are multiple times I’ve seen young Airmen and NCOs who are having a hard day and come over and say ‘hi’, to Buffe,” said Schwinler.
The 5th AMXS maintainers work long hours and are tasked for last minute deployments but regardless of these challenges, they accomplish their daily mission.
“Buffe can relate to the maintainers,” said Schwinler. “Despite being ostracized by other cats due to her undeveloped leg, she continues to inspire Airmen, push on strongly and emulate the strength and courage to move forward.”
Senior Airman Samantha Rak, 5th AMXS commander’s support staff and Buffe’s primary caregiver, sees her lift Airmen’s morale every day.
“She’s like a little bit of a mental break,” said Rak. “I always called it a ‘Buffe break’ because I would stop what I was doing and hang out with her for a little bit. It helped me center myself and get ready to charge forward with whatever else I had to do at work.”
Buffe was commissioned by Maj. Oscar the black cat, the mascot for the 5th Reconnaissance Squadron at Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea. Buffe and Oscar are two of several ranked mascots in other Air Force squadrons who are given official titles and duties to help keep spirits high and morale strong.