By Tech. Sgt. Jared Marquis
21st Space Wing Public Affairs
THULE AIR BASE, Greenland — Maintaining resilience is an important part of being an Airman and every assignment has its unique challenges. Thule Air Force Base, Greenland is no different, remote assignment, remote location, temperature extremes, and connectivity issues to name a few.
For Airman stationed at the Top of the World, their sense of community is part of what helps them maintain that resilience.
“One of the main challenges is being separated from family,” said Chaplain (Capt.) Charles Holstein, 821st Air Base Group chaplain. “That’s the thing that unites everyone here, regardless of rank. Being separated from family, we have to rely on each other to be a surrogate family. There is nothing off base. The base is itself a home and community.”
It’s a theme repeated in every interaction with those stationed here. The leadership team greets every new arrival, regardless of weather, as they get off the plane. And a going away is not a unit event, it’s a base event.
“The sense of community is what makes this assignment so great,” said Master Sgt. Walton, 821st ABG first sergeant. “A lot of it has to do with there is no off base or going downtown. You can’t do that here. So people here have figured out the way to survive is to be sociable and take care of each other.”
At a base with no more than 160 Airmen, everyone knows everyone, said Walton. So, if someone is struggling or having difficulties, it’s spotted early and people take action.
“From a first sergeant perspective, that kind of looking out for each other has kept me from having to take any disciplinary actions,” said Walton, who is nearing the end of his tour. “I have had no major disciplinary issues since I’ve been here.”
Community and wingmanship are more necessary here, than many other assignments.
“We’re it,” said Walton. “If we don’t take care of each other, nobody will.”
The community activities also play a part in building those relationships. With activities offered by Greenland Contractors as part of the base maintenance contract, activities at the Top
of the World Club, Chapel, and other support services, there are no shortages of things to do at Thule.
They try to plan regular activities to get Airmen out of the dorm rooms. Some events include a combat dining out, various runs, and other fun activities.
“We really try to let the Airmen contribute to activities,” Walton said. “If it isn’t illegal or immoral, we usually try to find a way to make it happen.”
The chapel also helps supports those activities, sponsoring the Ice Cave. An entertainment hub the Airmen can use to play video games, or watch movies.
“The Ice Cave is awesome,” said Walton. “It can get pretty packed in there, especially of a Friday or Saturday night.”
There is also no shortage of support from people back home, he said. The 21st Space Wing is very supportive, especially the chapel staff, who provide most everything the chapel here asks for.
Care packages also help reinvigorate the Airmen, especially around the holidays. Walton said the constantly get care packages. He gets emails all the time asking ‘What do you need?’
From support at home to an unequaled sense of community, these Airmen are able to thrive; despite living in working in some of the most extreme conditions on earth.
“Maintaining resiliency is key because we still have a mission to do,” Holstein said. “The way that the weather, the light and the darkness affect people, it’s important we watch out for each other.”
So while an assignment to Thule means you can’t bring your family, its ok, there is already a surrogate here waiting for you.
(Editor’s note: This story is part 2 of a 4 part series about the life at the Top of the World: Thule Air Base, Greenland.)