By Capt. Brian HarrisSeptember 28, 2016
JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. - Soldiers assigned to 16th Combat Aviation Brigade, 7th Infantry Division, along with families and friends celebrated the opening of the Raptor Soldier and Family Resiliency Center during a ceremony, here, Sept. 23.
The new center repurposed an unused building to bring together all of the brigade's mental, physical and spiritual fitness capabilities.
"By combining these assets under one roof, opportunities for collaboration, joint planning and maximizing efforts will be much easier," said Chaplain (Maj.) Stephen Pratel, 16th CAB chaplain.
Onsite staff will include: Unit Ministry Teams, Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention, Military Family Life Counselor, Armed Forces Community Service, Army Substance Abuse Program, Behavioral Health and Master Resiliency Trainer.
"It is my hope that by doing this we can combine efforts into single events rather than holding multiple events on the same theme," said Pratel. "We are already doing this with SHARP and Suicide Prevention Training, but hope to expand it to other training requirements such as comprehensive Soldier fitness, and ASAP."
Opening the center was a new experience for all involved, and provided them with an opportunity to learn.
"The process gave me space to interact and collaborate with leaders who have different skills and perspectives than my own," said Chaplain (Capt.) Elyse Gustafson, 46th Aviation Support Battalion chaplain. "I feel almost as if I am growing and stretching new muscles, which makes me excited for the strength of support we may be able to offer in the future."
The center is meant to provide resiliency resources to Soldiers and families and to be a place for rest and relaxation. Chili cook-offs and Family Readiness Group dinners are planned in the near future.
"We also want the center's classrooms and meeting spaces and café to be reserved by our units and FRGs for family events and activities. This center provides a multipurpose facility that we control, but is not a command building," said Pratel. "This is a community center."
Following the opening ceremony, guests received a tour of the many features the center has and the building's planners were quick to note they have a vision for much more in the future.
"I want the center to become something of a community center, where we can be surprised and blessed by the gifts we each bring to the table and reminded of all the things we have in common," said Gustafson.
"In many ways this is a chaplain's dream, to have a facility dedicated to the care of Soldiers and families, training spaces, a café and to have this under one roof with our resiliency and wellness partners," said Pratel. "I'm humbled and grateful to be entrusted with this mission."