SOTO CANO AIR BASE, Honduras –
What started as a small group of friends wanting to explore the Comayagua mountain valley in 2007, has grown exponentially to a large group of service members on a hike for a "higher power."
For the 57th Chapel Hike, more than 130 members assigned to Joint Task Force-Bravo laced up their hiking boots and trekked almost four miles up a mountain to deliver over 3,800-pounds of donated dry goods, to a remote village near Potrerillos, Siguatepeque, Honduras Oct. 25.
"For this trip, the governor of Comayagua and the chaplain's office worked together with some guidance provided by Joint Task Force-Bravo's intelligence office and civil and military operations office, along with Joint Security Forces to select a village," said U.S. Army Sgt. Joshua Smith, Joint Task Force-Bravo chaplain assistant.
There are approximately 130 families living in the village, which is difficult to access by vehicle. Typically, villagers have to walk several miles to the closest market for supplies and carry their groceries home by hand. To help carry the load, the volunteers filled their backpacks and carried the supplies.
"The Chapel Hike was a blast and completely worth the few extra pounds I had to carry on my back," said U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Whitley Collier, 612th Air Base Squadron weather forecaster. "I would do it again in a heartbeat."
The donated goods were purchased by the JTF-Bravo Chapel using funds donated by the volunteers, which helps provide a family with approximately three-days worth of food.
The Chapel Hike was a new experience for several people who are new to Soto Cano Air Base, Honduras.
"It was a great experience seeing so many people here at JTF-Bravo coming together for one single purpose," said U.S. Air Force Capt. Samuel McClellan, Joint Task Force-Bravo command chaplain. "It made me realize that the chapel hike is comprised of three parts. First, we are giving a great amount of help to some very poor people. Secondly, it is a good eye opening experience for many of us coming out of the comforts of our homes in the U.S. Finally, it was a very good relationship building opportunity for us with the governor of Comayagua. From my understanding, she was previously unaware of the impact we made during these chapel hikes. Hopefully this will continue to build upon our motto of 'Progress through Unity'."
After delivering the food and supplies, JTF-Bravo members spent time interacting with the villagers and playing with the children, to include providing them with two piñatas full of candy to break open and soccer balls, which were donated by the non-profit organization Kick for Nick Foundation, to kick around. Many of the kids also filled their hands, pockets and shirts with the candy and snacks given by the volunteers.
Since the chapel hikes originated in 2007, over 9,500 service members have donated over $167,000 and volunteered their time to deliver more than 207,000 pounds of food and supplies to several remote villages.