By Airman 1st Class Yosselin Perla, 18 Wing Public Affairs
/ Published April 12, 2021
U.S. Airmen from the 18th Maintenance Group tour Hacksaw Ridge in Urasoe, Japan, March 26, 2021. This was the first stop on the Battle of Okinawa tour hosted by the Nest Program. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Yosselin Perla)
U.S. Airmen from the 18th Maintenance Group tour the Japanese Naval Underground in Tomigusuku, Japan, March 26, 2021. Forty Airmen participated in the day trip hosted by the Nest Program. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Yosselin Perla)
U.S. Airmen from the 18th Maintenance Group tour the tunnel complex of the Japanese Naval Underground in Tomigusuku, Japan, March 26, 2021. This tunnel complex was dug by 3,000 men of the Yamane Division of the Japanese Navy Engineering Corps in 1944 as an underground headquarters. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Yosselin Perla)
U.S. Airmen from the 18th Maintenance Group pose for a photo outside of Peace Prayer Park in Itoman, Japan, March 26, 2021. The visit to Peace Prayer Park was the last stop in the Battle of Okinawa tour hosted by the Nest Program. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Cesar Navarro)
U.S. Airmen from the 18th Maintenance Group walk through Peace Prayer Park in Itoman, Japan, March 26, 2021. Peace Prayer Park is the site where the Battle of Okinawa ended. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Yosselin Perla)
Between mid, swing, and day shifts, the mission never stops for maintainers. Even though the mission is neverending, the 18th Maintenance Group is ensuring their most valuable asset – the Airmen – are spiritually resilient by implementing the Nest Program.
The Nest Program is designed to help Airmen spiritually discover their innate purpose and meaning through recurring events that aim to build intrinsically resilient squadrons, explained Capt. Levy Pekar, 18th MXG chaplain.
All of the recurring events in the Nest Program are planned to have a spiritually focused conversation.
“The spiritual component to the Nest Program is not religion, it’s spirituality, it’s finding space within yourself to grow,” he said. “Spirituality is a big umbrella, it essentially means what gets you out of bed in the morning and what makes you excited to lace your boots up and go to work.”
Comprised of representatives from each of the 18th MXG Squadrons, the Nest Program committee is executed by maintainers, for maintainers.
“We’re here to connect our maintainers to the mission, to their peers and to their families,” said Tech. Sgt. Christopher Benson, vice president of the Nest Program.
Some of the recurring events in the works include day trips, couples date nights with childcare included, food trucks and workshops to help Airmen learn new skills. The program aims to accommodate all Airmen by offering diverse events.
“We have 2,600 maintainers who work nonstop. Instead of them turning to alcohol and bad behaviors, let them turn to connection and family,” Pekar said. “We want to reach as many Airmen as possible by making it accessible, continuous and reliable.”
The first event held March 26, 2021, consisted of 40 maintainers participating in a day trip dedicated to learning about the Battle of Okinawa.
“The day trip was targeted at connecting junior enlisted Airmen to the mission and their sense of purpose,” Benson explained. “It’s important for them to know why we are on a rock in the Pacific.”
The trip included stops at Peace Prayer Park, the Japanese Naval Underground, Sugar Loaf Hill and Hacksaw Ridge which were all historical sites from the Battle of Okinawa.
While learning about the history of the Battle of Okinawa, Airmen were also able to learn more about their fellow maintainers from different shops they typically wouldn’t interact with.
“People networked … They met people they had never met, they understood some of the reasons why they are here and understood other people's missions after some integration,” Benson said.
The Nest Program aims to provide positive social connections for Airmen to live a balanced lifestyle. The program hopes to help individuals feel supported at work and to influence healthier relationships in the workplace as well as in their personal lives.
“We’re targeting the maintenance group as a whole – the junior enlisted, NCOs and senior NCOs,” Benson explained. “We want to have the ability to be able to give back to them so they are able to rebuild and recuperate. We’re trying to take a proactive approach to showing our Airmen that we care about them in and out of uniform.”