Oasis offers refuge from Academy life

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Don Branum
  • U.S. Air Force Academy Public Affairs
Cadets can always use a place to get away from the breakneck pace of academics, athletics and military training. The chaplains have such a place: the Oasis, situated on the Terrazzo level of Sijan Hall, where cadets can come together to hang out, cook or even study for a few hours a night.

Painted above the doors between the Oasis and the chaplains' offices are the words, "May all who enter as guests leave as friends." Round tables sit between the lounge's north-facing windows, a coffee bar packed with syrups and mugs and a vending machine that produces coffee or hot chocolate on demand. A projector hangs from the ceiling on the opposite side of the room, and several X-Box 360 game consoles rest beneath large flat-panel TVs.

If that's not enough to keep cadets occupied, the room also holds a piano, a massage chair and a game table on which cadets can play chess, checkers or backgammon.

The one thing the Oasis hasn't had since it first opened in 2003 was a grand opening party. That will change come Monday, with a ribbon cutting at 5:30 p.m., followed by refreshments, cake, milkshakes, coffee and more.

"We'll have door prizes as well," said Chaplain (Capt.) Heather Bodwell, who manages the Oasis project. "For instance, there's a door prize for the cadet with the most unique coffee drink, a prize for the highest Guitar Hero score and a prize for who can drink a milkshake the fastest."

Anywhere between 35 and 50 cadets visit the Oasis on any given night, said Chaplain (Capt.) Zebulon Beck, who recently turned over the Oasis project to Chaplain Bodwell.
"It's a home for cadets in the evening: someplace where they can relax and get to know one another," Chaplain Beck said.

Windfall money paid for much of the renovation, with about $18,000 coming from appropriated fund grants, said Tech. Sgt. Aleric Hebert, the Chapel's NCO in charge of chapel funds. The Chaplain Tithes and Offerings Fund provided $5,000 toward renovation and pays for the Oasis' operating costs.

Some planned renovations, such as wood floors for the part of the lounge that's currently tiled, won't take place until after the grand opening party, Chaplain Bodwell said. The chaplains will hold interfaith discussions, such as one that took place Wednesday night, once per month.

The Oasis is open weeknights from 7:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Saturdays from 8:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. The lights go out on the game consoles and TVs after Academic Call to Quarters at 7:50 p.m.