SOTO CANO AIR BASE, Honduras –
More than 120 members of Joint Task Force-Bravo completed a seven-mile round trip hike to deliver more than 2,400 pounds of food and medical supplies to families in need in the mountain village of La Laguna, Honduras, Feb. 8, 2014.
The effort was part of the 52nd Joint Task Force Bravo "Chapel Hike," a long-standing tradition during which Task Force members donate funds to purchase food and medical supplies and then carry those supplies on a hike through the mountains to deliver them to local underserviced communities.
"The Chapel Hikes are a unique opportunity for the Soto Cano population to get together and bring support to some of the local villages and help out those who are a little less fortunate," said U.S. Army Col. John Sena, Soto Cano Air Base Army Support Activity Commander. "It's a way for the Hondurans and the U.S. personnel here to build on our partnership and strengthen that relationship."
The hike was no easy stroll. During the more than three mile trek up the mountain, Task Force members made an elevation gain of 1,700 feet while carrying more than 20 pounds of supplies each.
"It was a steep climb," said U.S. Army Col. Thomas Boccardi, Joint Task Force-Bravo Commander. "It doesn't matter if you're an infantryman, an aviator, or any other career field, it was a challenge. But then you get up to the village and you are just invigorated by the spirit of the people here. It's a population that doesn't have much, but they went out of their way to welcome us and put up decorations, and that really touches you. They have a grace and gratitude, with absolutely no sense of entitlement. It makes it all the worthwhile when you get up here and see how much they truly appreciate what we are doing."
Four special guests joined Task Force members on the hike. Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) professional fighters Kyle Kingsbury, Mike Pierce, Nate "Rock" Quarry and Steven Josephy were visiting Soto Cano to provide a mixed martial arts demonstration and participated in the hike, carrying their own packs of food and supplies to deliver.
"It's very rewarding to get a chance to be out here, to participate with Joint Task Force-Bravo to help out the people in this village," said Pierce. "It's great to be out here and be a part of this experience."
Those who participated in the hike said this type of operation is part of what is at the core Joint Task Force-Bravo.
"This is what it's all about," said U.S. Army Sgt. Maj. Thinh Huynh, Army Forces Battalion. "You see everyone out here, giving their weekend to help out others, and the way we are all working together. It doesn't matter if you are Air Force, Army, Marine Corps or Navy--it's all one team and that's what Joint Task Force Bravo is all about."
After delivering the food and supplies, Task Force members spent the afternoon interacting with the villagers and playing with the children, including providing them with two piñatas full of candy to break open.
Boccardi said taking the time to help out others and to interact with and get to know the local population is part of meeting the call to serve.
"It's about deeds, not words," said Boccardi. "Servicemembers are built to answer a calling, and it's a call to serve. In this case, it's not a call to stand guard duty on post or fly an aircraft. It's about doing something very simple. And this simple action is making someone else's life better."