NEWS | Jan. 7, 2008

JTF-Bravo completes series of hikes to deliver food to villages

By 1st Lt. Erika Yepsen Joint Task Force-Bravo Public Affairs

Damp weather didn't dampen the spirits of more than 50 servicemembers who hiked seven miles to deliver food and toys to villagers in El Volcan, Honduras, Jan 5.

The hike was the last in a series of five planned by the Joint Task Force-Bravo chaplain, Air Force Chaplain (Capt.) Chad Bellamy.

"This all started out with a couple of people talking about the mountains and going hiking back in Colorado," said Chaplain Bellamy, who is deployed to JTF-Bravo from Schriever Air Force Base, Colo. "We found out the base had excess food, and we decided to bring it with us to give to people when we went. Then someone made the suggestion of opening it up to other people on base, and it grew from there."

Approximately 50 people participated in the first hike in October, carrying 450 pounds of food to the village of Mata de Platano. Participation and interest in the hikes continued to grow throughout the series.

The final hike differed from the others, as it fell the day before Three Kings Day, a holiday traditionally celebrated in Honduras by giving gifts to children. Because of the holiday, servicemembers carried more toys than food to give to the local children.

"It's great to get out there and have the Honduran people see and accept us in their community and to know that the feeling of appreciation between us is mutual," said Air Force Lt. Col. Larry Ott, JTF-Bravo deputy commander.

The exercise, the countryside and the warm reception from the Honduran people made every hike fun, said Army 1st Lt. Nissa Carlson, 1st Battalion, 228th Aviation Regiment, who participated in every hike in the series.

"I'd like to continue doing these until I leave," Lieutenant Carlson said.

Collectively throughout the series, more than 350 servicemembers traveled 39 miles to deliver more than 1.6 tons of food to approximately 1,800 people in five villages.

"I was surprised by how much the hikes have helped us build a relationship with the local community," Chaplain Bellamy said. The chaplain will return to his base in Colorado in a few days, but has been left with a lasting impression of Honduras and the Honduran people.

"I hope the hikes continue after I leave," he said. "We both benefit so much from them."