SOTO CANO AIR BASE, Honduras –
More than 60 Joint Task Force Bravo personnel trekked seven and a half miles up steep mountain roads and trails near Comayagua, Honduras, to deliver goods to people living in a remote mountaintop village.
Participating in a monthly Chapel Hike, the JTF-Bravo hikers carried 163 bags of food in backpacks, rucksacks and duffel bags. They also loaded their packs with stuffed animals and handed the toys out to children along the way.
Upon reaching the village of Picacho, a village of only 200 people sitting 3,800 feet above sea level, the tired hikers caught their breath and began distributing the bags of food to the villagers.
"We bought more than $600 dollars worth of groceries from the chapel tithes," said Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Norman Oehring, the JTF-Bravo chaplain's assistant.
Petty Officer Oehring said the bags of oil, flour, canned goods, powdered eggs and milk were delivered to 35 families.
"This hike was the most physically demanding hike we've been on because of the elevation and the road and trail conditions, but I think everyone participating will tell you that what is drained from the hikers physically is replaced spiritually by seeing how appreciative the families are when they are handed the bags of groceries," Petty Officer Oehring said.
The monthly Chapel Hike was an idea sparked by then JTF-Bravo chaplain, Air Force Chaplain (Capt.) Chad Bellamy in 2007. The tradition has continued and each chaplain assigned to JTF-Bravo is carrying on the tradition.
Army Sgt. 1st Class Manuel Zeggara, JTF-Bravo Office of Military and Civil Operations, said although the chapel hike is organized by the Chaplain (Capt.) Scott Nupsen and Petty Officer 1st Class Oehring, it's the grass-roots effort of all people participating in the hike that make the end results gratifying.
"This is what JTF-Bravo is all about," Sergeant Zeggara said. "Whether it's a disaster relief mission supporting thousands affected by a hurricane or an earthquake, or hauling groceries up a mountain to make life easier for 30 poor Honduran families, the men and women of JTF-Bravo are here in Honduras as ambassadors of the U.S. and this program is another example of how we positively affect the local community by being here."