435th AGOW Airmen blend resiliency with giving back

  • Published
  • By Capt. Lou J. Barton
  • 435th Air Ground Operations Wing Public Affairs

Twelve members of the 435th Air Ground Operations Wing participated in a service project and spiritual retreat in Transylvania, Romania, June 19-23, 2023.

The Airmen assisted in helping a local community organization restore a 100-year-old building to be used for a medical clinic, library, community center and school that will service the local community and its surrounding areas. The Airmen helped clear out material from spaces, prime and plaster walls, remove old floor boards, paint exterior walls, clear landscapes and install and paint a new fence.

“This retreat has given our Airmen an opportunity to step back from their day-to-day job and really see the bigger picture of what we are doing a military while giving back to the community,” said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Samantha Melendez, 4th Air Support Operations Group First Sergeant.

The group blended their days with resiliency seminars led by the wing chaplain, worked on the service project alongside local community members and visited cultural sites and local area attractions.

The service project is the culmination of years of work from a local community organization that has been restoring the culturally significant building and creating a space that can offer a variety of social services to the community.

“Getting to this point has had its setbacks,” said Roxana Dobre, Saint Mary Society project coordinator. “Funding was always a challenge, but members of the community rallied together to help us take small steps that have led us here.”

The project is implementing a phased approach into the services the building will be providing. A free medical clinic is slated to be operational in the next two weeks.

“We are trying to cover a social need,” Dobre said. “We have started with a medical center, which will be for those that are in need. Not only dedicated to the local community, but communities surrounding us that have a need.”

A team of volunteer doctors and medical staff are already sourced to start operations in the newly completed facility.

The benefit of the service project and retreat is two sided. Both the community and the participating Airmen received an advantage from the project.

“This experience has opened up new horizons for me, while getting to experience different cultures and spiritual beliefs,” said Staff Sgt. Jaidah Terry, 1st Combat Communications Squadron radio frequency transmission systems technician. “All this while getting to do something great like volunteering.”

The experience of blending a service project with a spiritual retreat is a unique concept that had not been done before at the 435th AGOW.

“Wing leadership encouraged this retreat to help us strengthen relationships with our allies, while providing our deployed Airmen with a great opportunity to build their resiliency,” said Chaplain Maj. Lane Campbell, 435th Wing chaplain. “This was a great opportunity to connect with our deployed Airmen and provide them with spiritual care.”

While the retreat offered aspects of spiritual resiliency, Campbell took time to learn how each member engaged with spirituality to ensure everyone attending got something out of the retreat.

“As the 435th AGOW Chaplain, I want to make sure everyone has access to chaplain services,” Campbell said. “While I cannot be at all the 26 locations our 1,400 Airmen are located at across Europe, my goal is to make connections with Air Force and Army chaplains where they are located to ensure everyone can have their spiritual needs met.”