Story by Amn Jacob Wrightsman on 09/24/2019Airmen may be engaging with their chaplains more often in the upcoming months, as the Air Force Chaplain Corps institutes a new vision for base chaplains.
After senior religious support teams met for the 2019 Chaplain Corps Summit in Washington, D.C., the Air Force Chaplain Corps launched HC|Next, in which Chaplain (Brig. Gen.) Steven A. Schaick, Air Force Chief of Chaplains, vowed to create "white space" for religious support teams to invest more time with Airmen.
"This vision, though new to our Corps and bold in its promise, is what chaplains and Religious Affairs Airmen have always done -- it's in our DNA," Schaick said in a memorandum to Air Force chaplains. "Further, it's what our Airmen at every level and location expect from us. We must deliver on our promise."
With the goal of reaching every Airman possible, the plan implements immediate changes to various administrative and additional duties to allow chaplains more time to engage with their units.
"Our chaplains had to balance the business of being with their units and having to be in the chapel office for meetings, planning sessions and budget preparations," said Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Hyral Buddy Walker Jr., 2nd Bomb Wing chaplain. "Now we are still doing what needs to be done to continue to function as an Air Force entity, but 90 percent of the day, our chaplains are out with their Airmen."
The chaplain corps hopes more face-to-face time with Airmen allows chaplains to address the issues that have plagued service members in the recent year.
"We have some enemies that need to be named," Walker said. "And those enemies are hopelessness, loneliness and despair."
In order to combat these enemies, the Chaplain Corps is encouraging Airmen to reach out to base chaplains, regardless of how small the issue may seem.
"I always tell Airmen, if something bothers you for more than a day, you need to talk it out," said Chaplain (Capt.) John H. Lee, 2nd Bomb Wing chaplain. "Sometimes just talking to somebody helps."
Although talking through problems can be an effective and courageous way to work through hardship, many Airmen may be leery about who they engage with in fear their jobs may be affected. Having 100 percent confidentiality, base chaplains are not mandatory reporters and are free to give counseling on any obstacles Airmen face.
"Everyone always hears us preach about confidentiality, meaning if you and I were sitting here with the door closed, nothing you say can be given to anyone else, it's strictly confidential," Walker said. "But the reason that's so advantageous is because an Airman's job won't be at risk because they're seeking help."
Additionally, chaplains are not confined strictly to religious matters. Any situation that inhibits an Airman's ability to effectively complete the mission is a situation in which a chaplain can help.
"We are here for all Airmen, not just to give an answer to their hardships but to walk with them on their journey," Lee said. "I would say about 99 percent of the people we talk to don't talk about religious issues, they talk about human issues," Walker added.
As the stressors of military life inevitably continue to affect the lives of Airmen, base chaplains are a major resource that have become increasingly available with the help of the new initiative of the Air Force Chaplain Corps.
"Our Airmen need you now more than ever," Schaick said in a memorandum to Air Force chaplains. "So, push away from the desk, grab your Religious Support Team partner, and get out there with the greatest warfighters on the planet."
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