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PYONGTAEK, South Korea — If airmen at remote Kunsan Air Base in South Korea feel downcast or otherwise troubled during this holiday season, an easy DSN phone number will connect them with fellow airmen waiting to help.

Kunsan is offering Operation Heartline, a bank of phones staffed by airmen volunteers who’ll take calls inside the Sonlight Inn, a Christian coffee house the base chapel sponsors.

Heartline, at 782-7300, an on-base, DSN number, is to be in operation through Jan. 2.

“Our primary focus is to get members through the holidays,” said Master Sgt. Dana Belser of the 8th Medical Group, part of Kunsan’s 8th Fighter Wing, known as the Wolf Pack. “We’re this far away from loved ones, family and friends, and it is important that we hang on as a family, we here at the Wolf Pack.

“Your typical situation might be of a dorm member, let’s say, who’s kind of longing to be home, depressed, or just dealing with personal life struggles that are overwhelming for him,” said Belser.

“And they just need to talk,” he said. “So they might pick up the phone, they can give our Heartline a call, and there’ll be someone on the receiving end to listen to that person — very empathetically listen — and try to help the member as best they can, through the situation.”

Many times, Belser said, that’s all it takes to help someone through such bouts of homesickness or holiday blues: “just a caring person, just willing to listen.”

He said younger airmen on their first overseas tour are especially vulnerable to feeling down.

“We’re at a remote location,” Belser said of Kunsan Air Base, which is on Korea’s western seacoast and whose ranks consist mainly of unaccompanied airmen on one-year assignments.

Whether a caller gives indications of being suicidal is among the first things volunteers will be listening for, Belser said.

“Do they want to harm themselves? If they’re not suicidal, that’s outstanding,” he said.

But if caller give signs of being suicidal, volunteers will ask whether he or she is willing to speak with a chaplain or psychologist, both of whom will be on call.

Volunteers also are to alert the command post and have the psychologist or chaplain contacted immediately, Belser said.

If callers appear in no imminent danger of committing suicide or other violence, the volunteers are ready to be listening, empathetic presences, Belser said.

About 15 to 20 volunteers have responded to a recent e-mail Belser sent out on base, he said.

One of them is Senior Airman Reniaya Venson, 22, of Denver, assigned to the 8th Mission Support Squadron.

“I knew it was holiday time and I just wanted to help out anybody that may be having any difficulties being away from their family and friends, even if they just wanted to joke around or have a serious conversation,” said Venson.

“Since it’s a ‘remote,’ it’s a foreign country, a lot of us have never been outside the United States, so to have someone who has experienced the same thing as you, makes it a lot easier to deal with, being here.

“Me and a few of my friends, we experienced the separation of being away from our family and our friends in the United States,” she said. “But once we met each other and got along, [it felt like being in] a family away from a family.”

She’s keeping one thing uppermost in her mind as she awaits whatever calls may come her way: “Everybody handles their situation differently, and I have to try to put myself in their shoes, and understand how they feel, before trying to help them.”

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