Deployed Cannon airman volunteers with chapel

USAF photo: Tech. Sgt. Tammie Moore Senior Airman Kyle Eisenbarth stocks shelves as the Transit Center chapel Aug. 3. The chapel office tent, located directly behind the chapel, serves as an area for people to relax, grab a few supplies, enjoy a snack, socialize with others, fellowship or seek counseling. Eisenbarth is a chapel volunteer and 376th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron Expeditionary Theater Distribution Center journeyman. He is deployed from Cannon Air Force Base.

By Tech. Sgt. Tammie Moore: 376th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

TRANSIT CENTER AT MANAS, Kyrgyzstan — The six-person chapel staff at the Transit Center hosts 23 services a week, but they spend their time here doing more than preparing for the next service.

They stand ready to meet the needs of anyone passing through their doors regardless of their branch of service, religious affiliation, or lack of one.

“The chapel is the center of the community in so many ways,” said Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Steve Thompson, 376th Air Expeditionary Wing chaplain. “We minister to the permanent party as you might expect. In addition, we do a lot of ministry with the transients in terms of helping them with a variety of needs.”

The staff can provide support in the form of spare razors, making a call home, spiritual fellowship or leaning an ear to someone who wants to discuss a problem.

“We have a lot of our permanent party who serve as volunteers and they’re just an incredible help to us,” Thompson said. “If anybody would like to help, we’ll give you a quick orientation and get you volunteering.”

One of those volunteers is Senior Airman Kyle Eisenbarth, 376th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron Expeditionary Theater Distribution Center journeyman, deployed from Cannon Air Force Base.

“I mainly help out with the people coming in transient,” Eisenbarth said. “It gives me something to do on my days off. I like helping out the people on their way home or downrange. We show them where everything is and if they need anything particular we’ll help them find it. If they are looking for anything around the installation we instruct them how to get there.”

The previous chapel staff took the commonly heard deployment phrase “leave it better than you found it” to heart, coordinating the addition of the chapel offices tent providing the staff room to assist more people.

“The amazing, mission-enhancing upgrades are the result of the work of a lot of people on base,” said Thompson, who is deployed from the Florida Air National Guard’s 125th Fighter Wing. “In essence, I’m sitting under the shade of a tree whose seed was planted long before I arrived.”

The addition tripled the staff’s workspace and provides more privacy for individual counseling. Since the expansion, as many as 7,000 servicemembers have passed through the chapel facilities during a month.

“Sometimes it can be very difficult for people to come to a chaplain,” Thompson said. “It is a humbling thing to say, ‘I can’t do this — I need help.’ To have to walk into a busy place that is cramped and noisy and everyone can hear what you are saying just really diminishes the environment to the point that people would not want to come in to talk to you. What we have now is very welcoming, very inviting and very secure. I think it really facilitates getting over that stained-glass hump to come in and talk to someone who cares about them.”