GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas --
Lately, our community has been hit with some hard times. Morale isn’t the normal high, many events are canceled, and students can’t leave the base.
This thought leaves many wondering what they can do in such times. How can they build morale in these confusing and worrisome times?
The idea finally occurred to retired first sergeant, Tenny Sharp.
“I was up at 1 a.m. on Tuesday morning and couldn’t sleep so as I laid in bed restless,” explained Tenny. “I thought about the students and how they are limited to the base. As a retired First Sergeant that lives on base and has an Air Force son, a student that just graduated here in October, I couldn’t help but think of a way to bring some positivity during this time of uncertainty. Really I wanted to find a way to maintain our culture of connection within the current limitations.”
The very next morning Tenny awoke and put ‘Chalk our Walks’ into action. She ordered all of the chalk Michael’s had in stock and had it ready to go for the weekend. She posted her idea on the Goodfellow Personnel & Spouses Facebook group and received lots of support from the base.
“After sharing on Facebook, I had so much support from the base, said Tenny. “In fact, Ms. Casey from the Wing Staff stated that Airmen wanted to participate, so she provided 10 locations with chalk for the Airmen.”
Many people agreed with Tenny’s idea of maintaining their culture of connection while still keeping social distancing in mind.
“I decided to participate because I think it’s important to connect with others especially during trying times like these,” said volunteer, Stefanie Stott. “Something everyone can attest to is that military life is about connections and community. It’s knowing that we are in this together that will get us through it. As a base community, I think we grow when we come together, even while socially distancing ourselves.”
Goodfellow is now ‘chalk-full’ of these morale-building drawings. Airmen, Marines, Sailors, and Soldiers are playing hopscotch as they walk through the base. More and more people are talking with each other, keeping social distancing in mind, and not looking down at their phones.
The Sharp family even heard personally from Airmen how connected they feel and how great it is to have a base and leadership that cares about them.
“We are just in awe at how much more we as a Goodfellow community on base are connected,” said Tenny. “We walk around the base every weekend and normally it's one or two people together and on their phones.”
Lt. Col. Christopher Sharp, 316th Training Squadron Commander, commented on the effect the event had on the base. “The pipeline is open so we are actively training thousands of young Airmen, Sailors, Soldiers, and Marines. Our social distancing is from the outside world as they are all restricted to base. With no options for standard socialization and the need to continue the mission, the focus is to maintain a distance but keep the social connection. The reality is these are people's sons and daughters and it's our job to hunker down with them the same way their family would. It probably looks odd outside but for us, the connection is critical to getting them through this. I spent the day painting with chalk and talking to some of the most amazing Airmen you could imagine."
Commanders, instructors, students, spouses, children, and many other base members contributed to this initiative.
“My husband and I ran into an instructor and his family also participated and we shared ideas with each other,” said Stott. “I also saw other spouses and even students participating as well which I think definitely contributed to morale! I can only imagine the environment the students are in for training and now during this quarantine, it can’t be easy so anything that we can do as spouses and as fellow members to let them know times might be tough but you are not alone. There is still so much to be glad about. What a great way to spend our weekend!”
The initiative has also spread to neighborhoods off base where they are connecting with their community and showing the great culture of connectivity that Goodfellow enjoys.