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Soothing The Soul
by U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Quion Lowe
June 19, 2020

As one of the pillars of Comprehensive Airman Fitness, spiritual fitness holds the other three pillars together, in whichever way Airmen choose to maintain a positive spiritual outlook.

“Spiritual fitness, in my view fills a void for people that everybody kind of has,” said Tech Sgt. Colin Owens, 49th Wing Religious Affairs Resources noncommissioned officer in charge. “No matter what religion you are…as long as you have something that takes you away from your day-to-day life and allows you to focus on making yourself better, I think that’s a positive.”

With all the ways spiritual fitness can be practiced, many of them have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, this can be looked at as a chance for people to step up and adapt to the times.

Senior Airman Dharma Decker, 49th Wing Chapel augmentee and Tech. Sgt. Colin Owens, 49th WG Religious Affairs Resources non-commissioned officer in charge, pack bags for Airmen on restriction of movement, June 3, 2020, on Holloman Air Force Base, NM. Members of the Holloman Chapel and the First Sergeant’s Council, along with Airmen volunteers, teamed up to provide Airmen on a two-week ROM with goody bags and contact information to lift their spirits. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Adrian Salazar)
Senior Airman Dharma Decker, 49th Wing Chapel augmentee and Tech. Sgt. Colin Owens, 49th WG Religious Affairs Resources non-commissioned officer in charge, pack bags for Airmen on restriction of movement, June 3, 2020, on Holloman Air Force Base, NM. Members of the Holloman Chapel and the First Sergeant’s Council, along with Airmen volunteers, teamed up to provide Airmen on a two-week ROM with goody bags and contact information to lift their spirits. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Adrian Salazar)

“Anytime you have an obstacle, there's always an opportunity for leaders to rise up and think creatively and innovatively,” said Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Travis Yelton, 49th WG chaplain. “So far we've come up with lots of different ways to reach people through social media, electronic communication virtual services, and those kinds of things.”

Members of the Holloman Chapel and the First Sergeant’s Council have also teamed up to provide Airmen on a two-week restriction of movement with goody bags and contact information to lift their spirits.

While chaplains and first sergeants often lead the way in efforts to improve morale for other Airmen, the responsibility does not only belong on them.

“In these times I think it’s important to not take for granted the person next to you,” said Owens. “Lives are being impacted every day, and that can be anybody. We need to check in on the people around us and I think once you do that and start to build that trust, it can help people feel less isolated.”

During this time of physical distancing, concerns of Airmen dealing with isolation have been heightened, but the chapel already has methods in place that just needed adjustments.

One of the methods in place is the reFUEL Café, located in the permanent party dorms on base. They offer a menu of free non-alcoholic drinks and a lounge area for Airmen looking to get out on the weekends and socialize with other Airmen.

Airmen talk while waiting for their order at the reFUEL Café, June 5, 2020, on Holloman Air Force Base, N.M. The reFUEL Café is in the permanent party dorms on base and offers a menu of free non-alcoholic drinks and a lounge area to boost morale for Airmen. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Quion Lowe)
Airmen talk while waiting for their order at the reFUEL Café, June 5, 2020, on Holloman Air Force Base, N.M. The reFUEL Café is in the permanent party dorms on base and offers a menu of free non-alcoholic drinks and a lounge area to boost morale for Airmen. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Quion Lowe)

“Whenever we get new Airmen who want to volunteer as baristas, the first thing I do is stress to them that the reFUEL Café is not about free drinks,” said Ann Brinegar, Refuel Café volunteer coordinator. “It’s not about religion either, even though it’s sponsored by the Chapel. This is just a clean and positive environment for Airmen to get out of their dorms. Before COVID-19 we would be packed with people playing video games or chess or just hanging out.”

Patrons of the reFUEL Café may just go for the free drinks, but they also benefit from the supportive community.

“We have regulars who are here all the time,” said Airman 1st Class Ian Moana, 49th Equipment Maintenance Squadron aircraft structural maintenance technician and reFUEL Café volunteer. “They are always here and they love meeting new people and hanging out. I actually started volunteering here because I was new and I didn’t know anyone on Holloman.”

While there are various ways to maintain spiritual fitness and it is different for every individual, spiritually fit Airmen are essential for a resilient and ready Air Force.

“The number one weapon system in the Air Force is the person, the individual,” said Yelton. “Without the individual we have no one to do the mission. What makes the people go is what makes us ready, and because of that, it’s extremely important to not neglect the spiritual component of our readiness.”

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