Crossroads: taking care of our Airmen

2nd Lt. Amy Meyer, a 17th Training Group student, paints a mural at the Crossroads Student Center on Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas. (U.S. Air Force photo)

2nd Lt. Amy Meyer, a 17th Training Group student, paints a mural at the Crossroads Student Center on Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas. (U.S. Air Force photo)

GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- Every Monday, a bus arrives from Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, carrying the newest crop of technical training students. Excited at the prospect of entering the operational Air Force and the mission ahead of them, these Airmen still have a challenge to overcome: the training that will prepare them for their intelligence, firefighting and special instruments assignments.

Technical training is often stressful, and students coming from basic military training are likely still on edge from the BMT environment. While the challenges faced at Goodfellow are a necessary part of preparation for the operational Air Force, the 17th Training Wing Chapel office heads a highly-specialized mission to lower stress and take care of our technical training Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors and Marines: the Crossroads.

"Our ministry is to provide students a sanctuary and "home away from home" to facilitate pastoral care," said Chaplain (Maj.) Sam Tucker, senior chaplain for student ministries. "Our job is to show the students that somebody cares about them, will listen to them and encourage them."

The Crossroads, located in Bldg. 3201, offers students several forms of recreation, including movies, a kitchen facility, a covered patio area and an internet café, all in a relaxed environment. Alcohol and tobacco are not permitted. Additionally, two chaplains, Chaplain Tucker and Chaplain (Capt.) Todd Leatherman, and a chaplain assistant staff the center, providing mentorship and counseling to any student who asks.

"The whole purpose is 'everybody's welcome,'" Chaplain Tucker said, adding that he employed his United Methodist Church's media theme, "Open Minds, Open Hearts, Open Doors," as a guide in designing the Crossroads' mission.

"There's no issue of religion," Chaplain Tucker added. "People of any religious background or of none are welcome." And the students appear to embrace that welcome: the center gets an average of 2,000 sign-ins each week.

"We've had around 144,000 sign-ins since October of 2006," said Tech. Sgt. John Kittles, the chaplain assistant at the Crossroads. Additionally, the white rope student chaplain assistants volunteer a total of 56 hours per week in addition to their training.

"I have student leaders who claim no preference, atheist, agnostic, Christian, Buddhist, Muslim... we can see through labels to find their servant heart," Chaplain Tucker said. "The ability to show mercy, love and compassion can transcend all barriers."

While Crossroads is geared toward students, other base personnel are invited to volunteer. If that's not possible, Chaplain Tucker suggested another way to help.

"Encourage students on this base. Let them know that we all have our challenges, and our job is to make sure that they succeed in facing theirs," Chaplain Tucker said. "This base exists for the students, and our mission is to do everything we can to help them succeed in their military life as well as their personal lives."