PRESIDIO OF MONTEREY, Calif. (Aug. 23, 2022) – Chaplain (Capt.) Yaw Agbenu did not have to do a lot of talking as he led a Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center Spiritual Resiliency Hike at Point Lobos Natural Preserve on Aug. 20.
Instead, the foggy California coast with its old, twisted cypress trees, pelicans and Spanish moss provided a lot of the inspiration for spiritual resiliency—no words necessary.
The hike was one of an ongoing series of nondenominational hikes that bring the school’s language students into nature to alleviate stress, meet people and see the beautiful Monterey area. They take place on the third and fourth Saturdays of each month, and students can go on as many as they’d like. With no shortage of breath-taking hikes within a half an hour’s drive of Monterey, the hikes also offer variety and keep in mind the students’ busy schedules; they leave at 9 a.m. and return by 12:30 p.m.
“This hike is one of the ways of just having students have the opportunity to come out of the schoolhouse and come out of their dormitories and just enjoy nature,” said Agbenu, chaplain for the Army’s 229th Military Intelligence Battalion. “They’re able to talk to their friends, refresh themselves and reset for their tasks ahead of them in the coming weeks.”
Service members from the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force attend DLIFLC, and about half of the roughly 24 students on the Aug. 20 hike were Soldiers and half Airmen. Organizers welcome all members of the DLIFLC community, and participants also included at least one instructor and another chaplain. Students said they appreciated the opportunity.
“I love hiking, so it was nice to come and get out and relax,” said Spc. Sterling Aytes, assigned to the 229th MI Bn. and studying Mandarin Chinese.
Aytes, who arrived at DLIFLC about two months ago, said California is new to him, so he was glad to get out and see the local area.
Chaplain (Maj.) Calvin Park, DLIFLC chaplain, attended with his wife, and said the hikes are important because they motivate service members to study, and that ultimately benefits the nation and community at large.
“We need to invest in them to do their best in studying so that they can bring the good things for our nation,” Park said. “Not only in the military setting, but in our community as well … This is why we joined our military, to serve our nation and community.”
Agbenu started the hike by asking everyone to introduce themselves and state one thing that makes them happy. At another point he asked participants to name something that makes them grateful. Then, about halfway, Agbenu led a short discussion about resiliency. He gathered everyone in a clearing surrounded by cypress trees, about 50 feet from the Pacific Ocean, and talked about the importance of having an anchor in life.
“No matter how you toss the ship, the anchor is what grounds the ship so that it doesn’t get blown away,” Agbenu told the students. “I want to relate that to our lives. In our lives and our emotions, what is our anchor that grounds our emotions?”
Agbenu encouraged students to find that anchor in their lives, telling them it will help them weather difficult times. He also talked about the importance of maintaining priorities in life and making good choices.
For most of the hike, however, participants met new people, talked with one another and took in the beautiful scenery.
Agbenu said he has gone on more than 20 of the hikes, and always enjoys them.
“I would like to encourage everybody to take advantage of these hikes and come on them,” Agbenu said. “It’s a way to just break your comfort zone, come out, meet other people, enjoy nature, encourage somebody or be encouraged by somebody.”
The hikes are free, and upcoming hikes include a Jack’s Peak Mountain Hike Aug. 27; a Garrapata Coastal Hike Sept. 17; and a Garrapata Redwood Hike Sept. 24. To sign up or for more information, call the battalion chaplains’ office at (831) 242-5632 or (831) 242-7725. For more information on Army resilience resources, visit the Army Resilience Directorate website at www.armyresilience.army.mil.