SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. --
Sometimes, a high-five from a smiling chaplain is all you need to get through the work day.
Capt. Portmann Werner, chaplain with the 50th Space Wing, began his chaplain career at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado August 28, 2015.
He returned from Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, as a reservist and religious education coordinator contractor at Buckley Air Force Base, Colorado.
“When I arrived at Schriever, I was honestly happily surprised,” he said. “I was here in 2007 as a chaplain candidate, and it was a completely different base. Everyone was very closed off and no one talked to anyone.”
Werner said the chaplains at the time welcomed him with open arms, and mentored him about the day-to-day operations of a chapel’s office.
Two months after his arrival, Werner began geek lunch, where he set up a game console and left the auditorium door open to see who would come.
“I’m a giant nerd, and I’m on a giant nerd base, so I asked chaplain Adamson if it would it be alright if I started this,” he added.
What started with four attendees grew to 20-40 Airmen every week.
Werner initiated other events such as the Airman Easter Egg Hunt, Single Airman Retreats and the Great Wolf Lodge retreats, in addition to helping out with Wingman and Diversity days.
“Does high fiving people at the gate count as an event?” Werner smiled. “I just want people to start their day off right, and I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback from it, so I haven’t stopped.”
Werner explained he has traveled all over the country, but no base compares to Schriever AFB.
“I’ve seen a lot of bases, and Schriever is different because we’re a family,” he said. “A lot of bases say it, but in comparison, we actually live it.”
The Schriever AFB community has welcomed Werner with open arms, and that is something he will miss the most.
“People have embraced all the weird stuff I do, and they definitely made me feel like my personality was welcomed, he said. “After being a nerd my whole life, it’s an awesome feeling. I’ve been welcomed not only despite my weirdness but because of it.”
New 50th Space Wing chaplain, 1st Lt. Lauren Hughes, has worked with Werner for only two months, but said he has given her valuable advice.
“Through his actions, I’ve learned authenticity is key,” she said. “I’ve never seen him be anybody but Chaplain Werner.”
Hughes said she will miss his geeky, goofy and genuine personality the most.
“Over the last two months, I've noticed that smile appear when we enter a room, and laughter follows as we exit,” she said. “He takes full advantage of his personality to make others feel comfortable, including myself.”
Werner believes Hughes will be a success at Schriever AFB as the new chaplain, and wishes her nothing but the best.
“She’s going to do great things and go far as long as she stays true to herself and her calling,” he added.
Werner will miss a lot about Schriever AFB, but he said he will miss the people the most.
“Anywhere I go on this base, if I smile at someone, they smile back,” he said. “This whole place is truly what you make of it. If you decide to let little things control you, then you’re letting other stuff control you instead of you controlling the situation. You decide your emotions.
“My final thought, to quote Mr. Rogers, ‘For anyone reading this, I love you exactly how you are.’”