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May 10, 2012

A home away from home for dormitory Airmen

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Airman 1st Class Michael Washburn
355th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
(U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Timothy D. Moore)
Airman Michael Osten, 355th Medical Operations Squadron mental health technician, adjusts the volumes on electronic drum pads as Airman 1st Class Andres Escobar, 355th Aerospace Medicine Squadron bioenvironmental technician, watches in the Loft here Aug 18. The drum pads are just one of many forms of entertainment provided by the Loft to the Airmen of D-M.

For Airmen living in the dorms, life outside of work can be isolating. Most are away from their friends and family, and may not know a lot of people living around them.

The Airmen’s Ministry Center runs an area called the Loft, which provides Airmen a place go to meet others and enjoy a number of amenities. The Loft is located on the second floor of building 3610 and offers video game systems, big screen televisions, a full kitchen and more.

According to Chaplain (Capt.) Timothy Warf, 355th Fighter Wing, there is a big misconception about the Loft that makes Airmen hesitant to visit.

“Airmen think that because it’s run by the AMC, it’s like a church and religion is going to be crammed into their heads,” Warf said. “Although we do have a religious service, it’s only two hours a week. The Loft has always been about providing an alcohol-free social gathering area for Airmen with the rank of senior airman or below. It’s a place where they can come together, meet new people and just have fun.”

Not only does the Loft provide Airmen with entertainment and a place to hang out, the Loft feeds them as well. Every Sunday, outside organizations provide a free, home-cooked meal for all the Airmen in the dorms. Trips are also planned for Airmen such as indoor skydiving, a three-day camping trip at Mt. Lemmon, wakeboarding and a Grand Canyon trip scheduled for September.

The Loft is run by volunteer Airmen who live in the dorms. Because some Airmen work different shifts, the actual hours can vary.

“The Loft is usually open from 8 a.m. to around 10 or 11 p.m.,” said Tech. Sgt. Felecia Holloway, Loft noncommissioned officer in charge. “It all depends on the volunteer that’s there. The Loft could potentially be open 24 hours a day as long as we have shift coverage.”

Much like how the Air Force is evolving and changing for the better, the Loft is changing as well. Chaplain Warf has decided the Loft needed a mission. He says it represents what they’re doing and where they’re going.

“I’ve boiled it down to four key words: Connect, grow, serve and play,” Warf said. “What I see us doing here at the Loft is helping Airmen connect socially, grow relationally, serve faithfully and play hard.”

With the new mission come new ideas of for the Loft. Chaplain Warf wants to improve the Loft’s ability to connect to dormitory Airmen. He wants to partner with Airmen Against Drunk Driving, by using the AMC as a hub for the volunteers on the weekend. He also wants to add a digital video recorder with a season package for professional football games so Airmen can watch them.

Some of the additional renovations planned for the Loft are the removal of some of the carpet which will be replaced with tile, French doors that will lead out to the patio, new paint on the walls, surround sound, new furniture and an overhaul of the kitchen.

“The vision of the Loft is to be a home away from home for Airmen,” Warf said. “That’s the reason why we want to remodel. It’s not as homey as we would like it. I want to see the type of environment where it doesn’t seem like the military. It’s meant to be an area where Airmen can come to and connect, grow, serve and play in a positive, healthy environment.”




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