SOTO CANO AIR BASE, Honduras, –
The Joint Task Force-Bravo team grew with the addition of its new chaplain, Maj. Daniel Thompson, who arrived March 22. While serving as a visible reminder of the Holy, the new JTF-B chaplain provides spiritual care and the opportunity for members to exercise their constitutional right to freedom of religion.
Chaplain Thompson, here from Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, was originally slotted to deploy to Kabul, Afghanistan and after completing all the required training for that deployment, he found out he was going to come to Soto Cano Air Base instead.
After hearing the news the chaplain described his reaction, "I was quite exhilarated and wondered at first, 'Is this for real?' I love it here; I love the people, the mission and the programs offered. Chaplain Seligman really set me up for success."
Chaplain (Capt.) Charles Seligman returned to his home station, Keesler Air Force Base, April 1 but left a positive impact at Soto Cano. "It's hard to follow someone whose shoes are so big but it's also a blessing to fall in after someone who ran such a successful, tight ship," Chaplain Thompson said.
After a brief turn-over Maj. Thompson took over the chaplain duties. "I didn't just hit the ground running; I hit the ground sprinting," he said. One of the most visible projects the chapel heads is the chapel hike and the base executed one April 9, shortly after the chaplain's arrival.
Chapel Hikes allow members from Soto Cano to interact with Hondurans while providing them with necessary sustainment foods. The Friendship Chapel partners with local community leaders, city hall officials and the World Food Program to provide support to the base's surrounding villages in need.
"The Chapel Hikes are becoming increasingly successful, it keeps growing and thriving" the chaplain said.
This chapel hike was to El Taladro and the base donated 130 bags of food to their neighbors in need.
The day before the hike, 15 volunteers packed the food bag donations and lunches for all the volunteers who would hike the bags to the receivers. And there were a lot of volunteers.
"We had 106 members from the base volunteer to do this chapel hike. That's nearly 20 percent of the base who sacrificed their Saturday and chose to take care of the people around them rather than themselves."
"And they gave more than just their time," he added "they donated their hearts by connecting with their Honduran neighbors and they donated their resources giving school supplies and treats to the kids they interacted with."
One of those generous members was Staff Sgt. Ronald Myers, JTF-B Personnel deputy director. Sergeant Myers has participated in two chapel hikes since his arrival to Soto Cano this past November.
"I really enjoy doing the chapel hikes," Sergeant Myers said. "These hikes open my eyes to how much in life we take for granted. The people we get to interact with through these hikes have so little, but are so happy simply to be alive and have each other. Family and friends are really all you need; that togetherness brings happiness. These experiences give me an appreciation for life and that's why I'll continue to volunteer."
The chaplain hopes to continue to provide Soto Cano members with these opportunities to volunteer by keeping the Chapel Hike and other programs running as-is, "There have been radical changes in the chapel's funding and donation processes which may force us to re-look at our procedures and make some changes," Chaplain Thompson said, "but the programs that are in place really fit the spiritual needs of the people here and I would like to keep all them all running as best we can."
"I am humbled and blessed to serve with such selfless volunteers," the chaplain said. "There is no way we could have successfully pulled this off without them. I'm eternally grateful for all those who helped and I'm looking forward to future missions."
Editor's note: Chaplain Thompson is a DeLand, Fla. native and is scheduled to return to Spangdahlem in September. Sergeant Myers is a Baltimore native and when he leaves Soto Cano Air Base at the end of May will head to Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland.