KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, MS, UNITED STATES
KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. – According to the first amendment of the Constitution of the United States, Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. For military members, chaplains are one of main advocates to help them protect this right.
Chaplains provide a number of services in order to support that right and keep Airmen in the fight. They provide religious accommodations to ensure everyone is free to exercise their beliefs, provide ethical advice to leadership, unit visitations and confidential counseling.
Just as members of the military take the Oath of Enlistment and swear to defend the Constitution’s liberties for civilians, chaplains defend military members’ religious freedoms. Chaplains make sure Airmen are not denied the opportunity to witness their faith, said 403rd Wing Chaplain (Capt.) Matthew Bryant.
Providing advice to leadership is one of the many ways chaplains ensure this. They council leaders on religious requirements and make sure accommodations are met for members. Bryant said they also visit squadrons to make certain these accommodations are in place and to check on the wellbeing of personnel.
Chaplains actively check on military members’ welfare, but in situations they don’t know about, their door is open for members to come to them, said Bryant.
“Part of the self-help principles we teach in the Air Force is learning where your limits are, learning when to reach out and learning when I need to ask for help,” said Bryant. “That’s where we come in, and we are willing to help you with that process.”
Balancing family, military, and work life can be a challenge. As acting first sergeant for the 403rd Aeromedical Staging Squadron, Master Sgt. Stacy McDonald is one of the first people Airmen look to when these challenges become stressful. She said she remembers a time the chaplain came to the rescue for a member who struggled with life at home and in their civilian job. McDonald said the chaplains were an important resource to which she could direct members. The chaplain was able to provide confidential counseling along with resources that Airman could use to get financial help in their time of need.
Even if the issue is beyond their support, chaplains are a great resource for help, said Bryant.
“Where our capabilities end as far as counsel, we are always willing and able to encourage people to go in different directions,” said Bryant. “We can be a conduit for other agencies, but we never do anything to violate people’s confidentiality.”
Some reasons people may not visit the chaplain’s office are because it’s not the first place they think of to get help, or they may be reluctant if they are not a religious person, said McDonald.
The Code of Ethics for Air Force Chaplains emphasizes that no matter the reason or your spiritual beliefs, chaplains are there to provide pastoral care to all members and their families.
“It’s a safe place to come. Knowing that it doesn’t matter what I say, the chaplain is here, and he or she will not take this information anywhere else,” said Bryant.
Bryant said the 403rd Wing Chaplain’s Office welcomes members to come check them out in Room 207 of the Wing Building here or at their Sunday morning service on base. Wing members who would like more information can call the Chaplain’s Office at 228-377-0400.
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This work, Chaplains commit to care, by SSgt Shelton Sherrill, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.