Reeling-in hope through movies

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Darnell T. Cannady
  • 480th Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance Wing
As the sun sets on Ramstein Air Base, Germany, another light starts shining. This light is broadcasting “The Goonies” movie onto the side of the 693rd Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Group’s building as cars filled with families gather to watch.
Chaplain Portmann Werner, 693rd ISRG head chaplain, had the innovative idea to convert the outside of their group’s building and parking lot into the ‘Reel Hope Drive-in’ movies. As an Airmen Resiliency Team member, he instantly knew this would increase morale and benefit Airmen and their families.

“By getting to leave the house and do something as a family, it brings a lot of normal to an abnormal time,” added Werner. “Having a fun event that still meets Centers for Disease Control guidelines helps those that need community interactions, a change of scenery, and most of all, reminds them that there is plenty of room for hope.”

Every Friday at 9 p.m., they play family movies as an avenue to escape the current normal of only going home and to work.

“I get about 7-10 families from the group, the 9 p.m. sunset is pretty rough on families,” said Werner. “Then we get 4-6 cars of people that are just driving by and decided to join us. We have had Security Forces come join us a couple times now.”

To make this event possible, Werner has to complete a few steps. First, he acquired a strong projector and learned the Federal and German radio law to ensure they wouldn’t run into any problems. Then he obtained old FM transmitters, and modified them to increase the broadcast range. He also worked with the 86th Civil Engineering Squadron to borrow generators and turn off the parking lot lights. 

“Chaplain Werner is a great man, amazing officer, and incredible mentor of mine,” said Airman 1st Class Ian Stembridge, 693rd Intelligence Support Squadron. “I’ve gotten to know him over the past 2 years and have learned that he will do absolutely anything for the sake of morale. He truly cares about people and his love is displayed through his actions. He and his wife took the time to organize this event and I couldn’t see anyone else doing it.”
For Senior Master Sgt. Vanessa Simmons, this event allows her family to find novel ways to spend time together. 
“My husband and I brought our dogs, they need to get out of the house too, and it was a fun date night away from the couch,” said Simmons, 24th Intelligence Squadron. “We went three weeks in a row and watched Goonies, Hook, and Onward. We got to see people we haven't seen in weeks--we waved at them from our cars and enjoyed a small amount of the in-person social interaction that we've been missing.”
“This experience has shone new light on how we can transform the resources we already have to create a new experience,” added Simmons.

Despite the challenges of the COVID-19 environment, Werner inspires his group as he continues to support all Airmen and their families.