Chaplains provide morale boost during mock SED
By Airman 1st Class Halley Burgess, 131st Bomb Wing Public Affairs
/ Published May 25, 2016
CAMP CLARK, Mo. -- 131st Bomb Wing chaplains held Bible studies each night for their fellow Citizen-Airmen during the second week of annual training here this week.
Chaplain (Capt.) Charlie Dey and other wing chaplains offered a ministry of presence during a mock state emergency duty deployment exercise by providing a nightly Bible study after duty hours at this Missouri National Guard Base near Nevada, Missouri.
During a deployment, a chaplain's mission is to provide support to the Airmen who may be suffering personally or professionally and who may be seeking spiritual or emotional guidance. Preparation to support a deployment begins before the unit gets its assignment. Chaplains conduct annual or biannual evaluations of the unit's spiritual needs, and once they arrive to a deployed setting, there is another evaluation of needs -- and resources available to meet those needs.
"One of the main things that our work revolves around is being present and having unit engagement," said Dey. "It's about being with our people and building a relationship so when the time may come when they do need support, they're already aware that we (the chaplains) are trustworthy."
Deployments often add new or additional stressors to Airmen who may already be experiencing other stressors in their personal or professional lives. The chaplains work to build and fortify a support network and provide necessary resources. There is 100 percent confidentiality when talking to a chaplain, and chaplains encourage members to engage their spiritual resources and their personal faith, which can aid in relieving the extra stress of deployment.
"Spiritual readiness is one of our pillars of readiness," said Dey. "And, we're here to support that and to help build that foundation so that spiritual discipline is in place for the people, which in turn, can really strengthen people against the storm of deployment."
The 131st's newest chaplain assistant, Senior Airman Brandon Eastland, came to Camp Clark with nothing but high expectations and excitement for his first mock deployment training scenario.
"I want to help my fellow Airmen by giving them any information they may be looking for," said Eastland. "I want to try to provide that information to further their spiritual growth, because it's good to be physically healthy and mentally healthy, but spiritual health combined to that just makes you a healthier and happier person."
Previously an active duty firefighter for the past three years, Eastland has enjoyed being able to participate in and assist with the Bible studies being offered during the week.
"This job energizes me," Eastland continued, "and it gives me a foundation and facilitates spiritual growth. The feeling of being in the military and yet still be religious, where some jobs in the civilian world would rather you not talk about your religion, is great."
Senior Airman Ethan Davis, 131st Bomb Wing B-2 crew chief with 131st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, and patron of the Bible studies, attributed a boost in morale to the openness of the military to members practicing their faith.
"It's just an encouragement to see the military cares about its members' lives and gives that opportunity to us," Davis said. "Without them (the chaplains) I think there would maybe be less morale with members having to go through hard times spiritually alone, rather than having the support that they bring."
A chaplain presence, in a deployment, during training or otherwise, offers the members a grounding point and a level of support that can offer advice and comfort during the stressful time away from home.