By Tech. Sgt. John Asselin, JTFBMay 1, 2008
SOTO CANO AIR BASE, Honduras - About 60 Joint Task Force-Bravo personnel used a day off work April 26 to continue the mission of humanitarian assistance as volunteers giving food to local Hondurans in need.
The volunteers were participants in the Joint Task Force-Bravo Chapel Hike, a program in which people from Soto Cano hike through the Honduran countryside delivering food to villages.
"The mission of the chapel hikes is to provide momentary relief when crops are not producing to expectations or there is an increase in food prices," said Air Force Chap. (Capt.) Jeremy Bastian, JTF-Bravo chaplain. "We're there to help until the crops grow better or food costs decrease."
The group delivered $900 worth of food staples in 225 individual bags with a total weight of about two and a half tons to two villages in Humuya, Honduras. The food bags held flour, pasta, oil, rice and other staples purchased recently at a grocery store in Comayagua, Honduras.
"We had originally wanted to purchase beans, but they have tripled in price in the last year," Chaplain Bastian said. "We put them back on the shelf because we would have had to feed less people if we spent money on beans." The increase in food prices and food shortages also attracted CNN to cover this chapel hike.
Food for the hikes is purchased with money collected as tithes from the chapel community. The local grocery store also kicks in a 10 percent discount, so the program is touched by people beyond the hike itself.
"The chapel hikes offer a continued service opportunity for people where they can serve something greater than themselves," Chaplain Bastian said.
Air Force Tech. Sgt. Richard Ruiz, 612th Air Base Squadron NCOIC of information management, is one of the people who sees the hikes as a great way to serve others.
"I wanted to come out and help others in need," he said. "It is all part of serving - that's why I joined the military." This was Sergeant Ruiz's first chapel hike.
The hikes started with the last deployment rotation as a way for people to get some extra exercise while experiencing the local culture, according to Chaplain Bastian.
"It wasn't long before the chapel hikes turned into a humanitarian assistance mission," he said. "And each hike steadily improves, with a better food selection and expanded locations where we go."
And according to the chaplain, those improvements are expected on future hikes.
"This was my last chapel hike here in Honduras, but my replacement [Chap. (Capt.) Scott Nupson] said he will continue the program," Chaplain Bastian said. "We are getting feedback the hikes are getting better and better each time and I look forward to hearing about Chaplain Nupson taking the progra
m to the next level."
The next chapel hike is scheduled for May 17.
"All are welcome to volunteer for the hikes," Chaplain Bastian said. "It's a great time to gather together and do fulfilling work."