Club 7 welcomes, encourages young Airmen

Story and photo by Airman 1st Class Joshua Magbanua 86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Airmen partake in a meal together July 15 on Ramstein. The free weekly dinner for Airmen E-4 and below is part of the ministry of Club 7.
Airmen partake in a meal together July 15 on Ramstein. The free weekly dinner for Airmen E-4 and below is part of the ministry of Club 7.

Airmen gathered in the living room with their heads bowed and eyes closed as a chaplain blessed their meal.

At the shout of “Amen,” boxes of pizza flung open, unleashing the pungent aroma of melted cheese, pepperoni, olives and pineapples. The fragrance of Italian-American cuisine blended with the quaint, homey atmosphere of the room.

Jokes and laughter resounded throughout the facility as the people enjoyed their lunch. Some Airmen surveyed the wide selection of movies and wondered which one to watch, while others just found a quiet spot and enjoyed their food in peace.

It’s a common sight at Club 7, one which Capt. Kristin Swenson, 86th Airlift Wing chaplain, hopes will encourage young Airmen to find peace in a strange new world.

“A lot of them are away from family for the first time, and they are new to the military,” Swenson said. “We want to help them feel welcome and at home as they make their way around the world trying to figure out themselves — who they are and what their purpose is.”

Club 7 is operated by chaplains and volunteers from the KMC. There are two locations in the KMC for Club 7, one on Ramstein and one on Kapaun.

Welcoming new Airmen with food is one of the ways Club 7 volunteers reach out to the community. Club 7 also gives Airmen other ways to ease their transition and grow. Swenson expressed her desire for young Airmen to dig deeper into their spiritual lives and find the peace and comfort, which food and drinks cannot give.

“The Airman Ministry Center is a place for them to come to relax and feel safe. It is a home away from home,” Swenson said. “It is a place to connect, build community (ties) and grow spiritually and socially.”

The mission of Club 7 revolves around Airmen E-4 and below, helping them develop according to the club’s four pillars: authentic community, serving others, spiritual formation and leadership, and development.

Although the Airman Ministry Center is owned by the chapel community, an Airman need not be religious to be part of the Club 7 family.

“This setting here is completely neutral as far as religion is concerned,” Swenson said. “We promote spirituality, not religion.”

Swenson, however, explained that the Club 7 family will guide an Airman to a religious service of his or her choice should they request guidance.

One of the club’s ways of helping Airmen develop according to the four pillars is giving them volunteer opportunities.

Natalie Luksan, Airman Ministry Center coordinator, said volunteers are important to Club 7’s operations, and volunteering at the club is an opportunity to make new friends.

“It’s a great opportunity to know people around base,” Luksan said. “It’s also great to have a community outside of your workplace.”

Luksan explained that being part of the Club 7 community can open the door for young Airmen to be open to each other and find support among their peers.

“It’s an opportunity for Airmen to mentor other Airmen,” Luksan said. “I’ve seen Airmen mentor each other about balancing life and work.

“This is a safe place to have a meaningful conversation,” Luksan continued.

Club 7 is a place where young Airmen, religious or not, can come and be themselves. They do not have to hide behind a veneer of what they are not, Swenson said.

“I think that’s where you can see the authenticity,” Swenson said. “People can be real, not have to put up those walls, and have no fear of being judged.

“I would like to see Club 7 as a place owned and run by the Airmen for the Airmen and where Airmen continue to grow by the four pillars,” Swenson continued.

As young Airmen continue to navigate their way through the twists and turns of life, the Club 7 family stands with their arms wide open, ready to welcome them to their home at the Airman Ministry Center.