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True North reaches beyond installation gates

U.S. Air Force Chaplain (Capt.) Jonathan Ayers, the 509th Maintenance Group chaplain, right, helps Senior Airman Dalton Deleon and Tech. Sgt. David Maskowski, deliver pizza to maintenance Airmen during U.S. Strategic Command’s Bomber Task Force deployment to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, Sept. 6, 2018. During a few weeks of the six-week deployment, the program sponsored a two-person Religious Support Team to ensure the 200 Airmen deployed there from Whiteman were spiritually and emotionally fit to accomplish their mission. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Danielle Quilla)

U.S. Air Force Chaplain (Capt.) Jonathan Ayers, the 509th Maintenance Group chaplain, right, helps Senior Airman Dalton Deleon and Tech. Sgt. David Maskowski, deliver pizza to maintenance Airmen during U.S. Strategic Command’s Bomber Task Force deployment to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, Sept. 6, 2018. During a few weeks of the six-week deployment, the program sponsored a two-person Religious Support Team to ensure the 200 Airmen deployed there from Whiteman were spiritually and emotionally fit to accomplish their mission. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Danielle Quilla)

Task Force True North compass for the 509th Bomb Wing at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri.

Task Force True North compass for the 509th Bomb Wing at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri.

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- The Task Force True North (TFTN) program effort goes beyond just in-processing at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri. It spans across oceans – literally – to help build a culture of engagement and resiliency.

During a few weeks of U.S. Strategic Command’s Bomber Task Force (BTF) six-week deployment at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam (JBPH-H), Hawaii, the program sponsored a two-person Religious Support Team (RST) to ensure the 200 Airmen deployed there from Whiteman were spiritually and emotionally fit to accomplish their mission.

“Although Hawaii is part of the United States, a deployment there is still a geographic separation and our Airmen are separated from loved ones,” said Morgan Hildebrand, the Whiteman AFB TFTN program manager. “We want to do everything we can to support them through that separation.”

The separation coupled with other challenges – this was the B-2s first deployment to Hawaii and the islands were threatened by Hurricane Lane – prompted Chaplain (Capt.) Jonathan Ayers and Master Sgt. Stenya Mendoza to offer their support to the deployed Airmen.

“Although there were helping agencies available locally at JBPH-H, it is often nice to see a familiar face from the Whiteman AFB Chaplain Corps,” Hildebrand said.

Additionally, Ayers and Mendoza provided several resiliency and cultural opportunities for Airmen during their downtime. Some of the events offered included the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors vs. Navy Midshipmen football game, a deep-sea fishing excursion, shark-cage diving, a Polynesian Luau and more.

“As an RST, our goal is to provide events that are not only fun, but also give Airmen opportunities to strengthen personal relationships inside and outside of their workplaces,” said Ayers. “Relationships are crucial when it comes to resiliency.”

“We are very grateful for the opportunity to get out of our rooms and go on excursions,” said Senior Airman Aaron Pitts, a 509th Maintenance Squadron non-destructive inspection technician. “The trips allowed us to take a step back and just relax so we were refreshed when we went back to work.”

The RST also provided meals to Airmen in their workplaces during their 12-hour shifts.

“The 509th Bomb Wing Chapel and TFTN had an amazing opportunity to work together in supporting all Airmen for this BTF,” Hildebrand said. “We are thankful for this opportunity and hopefully this sets a new standard for future deployments.”

TFTN is a beta-test program at only a handful of bases across the Air Force. Whiteman AFB has embedded RSTs within the 509th Mission Support Group and 509th Maintenance Group, as well as assigned mental health professionals to many of the squadrons.

For more information on TFTN, stop by the Whiteman AFB Welcome Center or call (660) 687-3135.

NORTH STAR: Task Force True North Survey
What: 15-20 minute, biannual, anonymous survey
Who: All 509th active duty members and government civilian employees.
Why: TFTN focuses on building practical application resiliency plans according to individual unit cultures and feedback.
How: Survey access will be provided through unit leadership Nov. 7-21 and can be taken from any computer; a CAC login is not required.
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