Caffeinating connections: Chapel uses coffee to connect with Airmen
Andersen Air Force Base, Guam -- The fragrance that floats from fresh coffee is an energizing smell for many Airmen and is the precursor to the beverage used to kickstart the day.
The Andersen Air Force Base Chaplain Corps strives to support Airmen in getting their daily dose of caffeine by providing a steady supply of coffee and the machines to brew it.
Not only does providing coffee help Airmen stay sharp and alert throughout the day, it is also being used to build a connection between the 36th Wing’s Airmen and the Chaplain Corps reinforcing the chapel’s ability to maintain wellness throughout the wing.
“The coffee is a force multiplier for the Chaplain Corps,” said Chaplain (Capt.) Keith Manry, 36th Wing chaplain. “Every time they have a cup of coffee, they are reminded that somebody cares about them. Even though I may only walk through the unit a couple times a month, the Chaplains Corps presence is felt on a daily basis, which is huge.”
The chapel has coffee stations at several facilities on base and at Northwest field. They regularly deliver coffee when units are low as well as conduct routine visits with Airmen.
“Coffee serves as a bridge for me to connect with the Airmen,” Manry said. “By having coffee stations at different locations, I can pop in and talk with them while I grab coffee there. In a way, it creates satellite offices for me to go to.”
Even with the coffee increasing the chapel’s presence throughout Andersen, not everyone may have a chance to have a cup of joe with a chaplain. Airmen facing a buildup of stress in their lives are still able to speak with a chaplain 24/7 if they need help. Counselling is an important mission support function that chaplains and chaplain assistants provide.
To aid in forming relationships between the chapel and Airmen across base, the 734th Air Mobility Squadron, 554th RED HORSE Squadron, 36th Combat Communications Squadron and 36th Security Forces Squadron use their capabilities to transport and store the coffee.
“Receiving assistance from various units across base has not only streamlined the process of bringing in the coffee and machines for distribution, but also transporting and storage,” said Master Sgt. Elton Gill, 36th Wing Chapel superintendent of chapel operations . With their help, we are able to keep the flow of coffee coming to Team Andersen. While storage and transport appear only as simple gestures, they have lasting impact that help Team Andersen significantly.”
Manry organized coffee deliveries with the help of Holy Joe's Cafe. Holy Joe’s Cafe is an organization that primarily sends coffee to deployed chaplains who use it to create a welcoming space for overseas service members.
Manry first made his connection with Holy Joe’s Cafe while deployed to Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, serving as the hospital chaplain for Craig Joint Theater Hospital in 2014. While there, he established a coffee corner, which served as an oasis to those at the hospital who were often facing dark times, Manry said. After returning from his deployment and moving to Guam, he began looking to establish a similar program to aid in boosting the morale of the wing.
The first shipment of coffee arrived to Andersen by mail. As the program became more established the need to receive coffee in higher volumes developed. The first break came when the 69th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron had free space in storage bins on an incoming B-52 Stratofortress. With the space not being manifested, Manry was able to work with the squadron commander to use the available space to bring a larger amount of coffee to Andersen.
With the help of many across base, the Chaplain Corps has established an effective program to aid in completing their mission. Supplying coffee allows them to raise morale and increase their presence throughout the 36th Wing, so Airmen who need someone to talk to know the chapel is ready to support them.
“The last thing we want is for someone to be in a point of crisis and difficulty and not know who their chaplain is,” Manry said. “We want that relationship to be there so when someone is in need they know us and they trust us.”